De La Salle plays tough in all three games, but cant slow Valley Catholic

PORTLAND — In a lot of ways, the Valley Catholic volleyball team was out of its element on Tuesday night.

First, the Valiants were on the road in Portland for a match against Lewis & Clark League foe De La Salle North Catholic.

Second, the Knights don’t play their home games at De La Salle High School, but a couple miles down the road at the Charles Jordan Community Center in North Portland. Throw in the fact that De La Salle was on an emotional high as the Knights hosted Senior Night for their volleyball team, and VC had plenty to overcome.

That said, there was one thing familiar enough to make it all right for Valley Catholic — the Valiants felt right at home on the volleyball court.

Valley Catholic shook off De La Salle challenges in each of the night’s three games but persevered in each, winning 25-16, 25-14 and 26-24. The win marked VC’s second straight in L&C play and its sixth victory in the past seven matches. The Valiants are now 6-2 in league play (12-6 overall) and sitting third behind Corbett and Oregon Episcopal, while De La Salle fell to 2-7 (5-11).

by: MILES VANCE - FLYING HIGH - Valley Catholic junior Madeline Henningsen catches air while making an attack during her teams three-game sweep of De La Salle on Tuesday night in Portland.

“We got a little flustered at the end, but we came through,” said Valley Catholic junior outside hitter Katharine Jesse, who led her team in kills Tuesday night. “I felt like we really played as a team once we got in our groove.”

“We kept communicating, kept our energy up and stayed positive,” said sophomore setter TinTin Luu. “We just needed to stay on our toes and we did; we were on our ‘A’ game today.”

“I’m proud of our girls. They dug in and stayed the course,” said Valiant coach Grant Anderson. “They wanted to finish it in three and they got it done.”

None of it was particularly easy, however. VC led just 14-12 midway through game one before the Valiants began to take over, getting two service aces each from Ashley Ferris and Luu, two kills from Jesse and winning 25-16 when Rebecca Fischer scored through the De La Salle block on the left side.

It looked like game two might be a bit easier when Valley Catholic pulled out to an early 11-5 lead, that stretch capped when Luu won a joust at the net against De La Salle’s Dajvonae Johnson.

But the Knights responded with four straight points — one on a Johnson block and one on a Johnson kill — scored seven of the game’s next eight points and tied the score at 12-12 on a tip by Naj Ford.

Suitably wakened, Valley Catholic answered emphatically, closing the game on a 13-2 run highlighted by four Jesse kills, a block by Rachel Liening, a crosscourt kill from Fischer and aces from Bridgette Henningsen, Luu and two more from Jesse.

Game three was even tighter, with Valley Catholic’s biggest edge at 8-4, while the Knights’ biggest came late in the game at 21-16 when a Valiant error capped a six-point De La Salle run. But there, with the outcome of the game hanging in the balance, VC steadied itself, won the serve back on a block by Liening and closed the match on a 10-3 run.

After Liening’s block, Liening notched an ace, Ferris and Jesse both scored twice, Jesse won a joust at the net and Valley got its final point on a De La Salle error.

“This was a really good win for us,” Luu said. “It keeps our self-esteem up, and we were all really positive and supportive and that’s what counts.”

Key to Valley Catholic’s recent success, they said, was the team atmosphere that has developed over the course of the season.

“I feel like we’ve been more supportive of each other and grown more together and bonded together which helps us pull through tight matches,” Jesse said.

“This year our team is really young, so over the season, we’ve been really growing and learning and playing as one,” Luu added.

In upcoming matches, the Valiants host Catlin Gabel at 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday), and hosts league-leading Corbett at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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