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After dominating the first two sets, the Bucks fended off a resurgent Tigers squad to advance to the state quarterfinals.

ST. PAUL, Ore.—What seemed like a walk in the park for the No. 2 ranked St. Paul volleyball team turned into anything but on Saturday, Oct. 30.

The Bucks hosted the visiting Central Christian Tigers in the second round of the state playoffs and won 3-1 to advance. The scores for each set were 25-5, 25-6, 20-25, and 25-22.

The first set was an utter blowout for the home team. St. Paul started out on a 7-0 run with solid serving and kills from junior Halsie Hempfling. Further kills from sophomore Stella Koch sophomore Meredith Coleman continued the runaway first set. On the other side of the net Central Christian struggled to put together any passes or digs, and St. Paul won the set easily 25-5.

The second set was more of the same. The Bucks leapt out to a 6-0 lead, and eventually established a 10-5 lead thanks to Central Christian hitting the ball poorly and St. Paul being aggressive at the net. From there the home team went on a 15-1 run to close out the second set 25-6 thanks to quality serving from St. Paul junior Frankie Lear and kills from Stella Koch.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - St. Pauls Anabelle Davidson hits the ball against Central Christian in the second round of the 1A state playoffs.

After being outscored 50-11 in the first two sets St. Paul appeared to be well on its way to an easy victory. Central Christian had other ideas.

"I think the first two sets were…they travelled here, they just weren't ready to play the first two sets," St. Paul head coach Lesli Hiller said. "But then they've got some good seniors on that team who just came back with a vengeance and were like, 'No, we're not sitting back.' And I think our girls started to get comfortable and think that they had it, even though they were behind (in the third set). It took some hard work and we were able to come through the last two (sets), but I think the other team played better the last two sets than they did the first two."

While St. Paul established a 4-0 lead in the third set, the Tigers battled back to eventually tie the game up at 5-5, 6-6, 8-8, and then 9-9. From there Central Christian slowly pulled away to establish a 17-11 lead. The Bucks tied it up at 17-17, but were unable to take the lead, eventually dropping the third set 25-20. Central Christian was now trailing 2-1.

The second set was no isolated incident. The Tigers continued to battle tooth and nail to keep their playoff hopes alive, but St. Paul took the lead early in the fourth set and didn't relinquish it. St. Paul never led by more than six points at any time and the Tigers made a late push to force a fifth set, but the Bucks weren't having it. St. Paul won the fourth set 25-22, and the game 3-1.

Several of the St. Paul girls had themselves quality games, according to the stats. Gracie Koch notched 29 assists, while Stella Koch had 15 kills and five blocks. Davidson had eight kills and four blocks, and was 20/20 while serving. Coleman and Hempfling had five and four kills, respectively, and Ainsley Goughnour notched six aces while she served.

St. Paul (28-4) will face off against the Big Sky League's Echo (22-4) in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday, Nov. 2 after the Independent goes to press.

"We haven't played Echo before, we know they're a good team," Hiller said. "Both of those teams we would have played against, Echo and Umpqua Valley Christian, are good teams. So we know that Tuesday is going to be a good match. We just have to get ourselves geared up for it."


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