West Linn, Jesuit set to battle for Class 6A state volleyball title
After a first-point rally that went at least one minute and likely longer, everyone knew what they were in store for.
That's what happened between No. 1 seed West Linn and No. 4 Central Catholic High volleyball in the first of two semifinal matches in the Class 6A state tournament at Liberty High School on Friday, Nov. 5.
The Lions ultimately won that first point and eventually the match 3-2, but it wasn't without a fight from the Rams all night.
After taking the first two sets, West Linn lost the next two when the Central Catholic serve started to give the Lions fits.
"Our whole focus this week at practice was closing out tight games," West Linn coach Emilie Wilmes said, a week after the Lions won in the quarterfinals in five sets. "I think really putting the pressure on them in practice in those situations and always starting down and pushing forward has made them really find the grit and teamwork to stay together as a team."
The Lions took the first two sets 25-21 and 25-18 and looked to be on cruise control as they handled both sets rather easily.
However, the service game, combined with Rams junior Sofia Cooper causing havoc up the middle, helped the Rams find their way around the weak spots.
Whether it was a tip over the Lions blockers or just strategically placed serves, the Rams got West Linn out of sync and more importantly, kept the ball away from the Lions' star player, Belmont University-bound Emily Warmenhoven.
"We worked on pressure serving, hitting the spots," Rams coach Kayla Hambley said. "It took us a while to get into the groove of feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable. And being uncomfortable was doing things we haven't needed to do in the past because we knew we were playing a great team."
The fourth-seeded Rams looked every part the Lions equal the final three sets, taking set three and four 25-22 and 25-15.
In the final frame, Central Catholic even held a 7-5 lead and were still tied at 10 getting later into the set.
But once the score was knotted at 10, the Lions turned to Warmenhoven, who picked up back-to-back kills to make it 12-10 Lions.
Out of a Central Catholic timeout, the Lions got one point back, but Warmenhoven drove two more to the ground to make it 14-11.
The Rams scored on back-to-back hitting errors from Warmenhoven, but she wouldn't miss a third time and put away the match-winning kill to take the final set 15-13.
"She (Warmenhoven) got player of the league, she's been on the team for four years and she's played in this gym in this situation a lot more than the other girls," Wilmes said. "She's used to pressure and I think that's something we rely on."
While Warmenhoven stood out for the Lions, Cooper was the leader for the Rams in the game and also provided the energy needed to spark a near reverse sweep.
"Middle isn't even really her position … in the club she plays outside right side," Hambley said. "She just owns it and she does everything for the team. She gives the team so much confidence … she's not a kid who's ever going to give up, on herself or the team."
Warmenhoven finished with 19 kills on the night while Cooper had 13 kills to go along with a few blocks in the match, including two that came in the fifth set.
While it may the end of the road for the Rams' title hopes, they'll still get one more game Saturday, Nov. 6, in the third place match against Bend. The Lava Bears fell 3-1 to Jesuit in the other semifinal.
Meanwhile, the Lions go against the Jesuit Crusaders for the Class 6A title, a matchup of two teams familiar with the state championship spotlight.
The two squads have met twice this year at two tournaments with the Lions taking the match both times, one 2-1 and the other 2-0.
"Leaving everything out there," Wilmes said of her team's mindset going into the final. "I have nine seniors on the team so this is it for a lot of them. Playing everything and leaving it out there and not holding back, because you never want to look back and wish you had done something else."
Jesuit warms up to take down Bend
Teresa Zimmerlee said her Jesuit volleyball team has been getting off to slow starts regularly, and that was the case Friday night against Bend in the Class 6A semifinal.
The Lava Bears were able to rally at the end of the set and take it 26-24 to put the Crusaders in an early hole.
However, the arms of Ceanna O'Loughlin and Isabel Patterson wouldn't be denied on the Jesuit side as the two outside hitters took control of the match in sets 2-4.
O'Loughlin finished the match with 20 kills while Patterson picked up 18 and Jesuit took the next three sets 25-18, 25-20 and 25-13 to close out the 3-1 match win.
"We've been starting out a little cold, but once we get warmed up, they're really hard to stop," Zimmerlee said. "Ceanna was crushing everything … they didn't really have an answer for Ceanna."
Bend had its share of solid hitters as well and they looked the part in the first set, but couldn't keep that momentum going.
Part of the issue was the Lava Bears had Jesuit's 6-foot-3 middle blocker Tess Masingale across from them, forcing the shot to go around her or picking up blocks.
With Masingale's tall frame blocking paths, the Crusaders were able to get easier digs and get better sets for their two on-fire hitters.
"Tess is pretty hard to hit around, she's 6-foot-3 and has good reach," Zimmerlee said. "The sophomore Lily (Lansing) does a pretty good job too."
The Crusaders will need those three and more to step up if they want to take down No. 1 West Linn in the Class 6A title game, scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.
More than anything, Zimmerlee wants her team to come out calm despite dropping four out of five sets played against the Lions this season in tournaments.
"We're just looking to come out and play nice and calm and not anxious," Zimmerlee said. "Just play our game. It'll be a good match. West Linn is a good team."
The third place game between Central Catholic and Bend is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
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