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Crusaders complete their slam


In the championship for a fourth straight year, Jesuit comes through to win

HILLSBORO — Momentum is a funny thing.

It comes and goes seemingly at will, oblivious to the wants and desires of all those impacted by it.

The Jesuit volleyball team knows that as well as anyone.

But when push came to shove on Saturday night in the Class 6A state championship against talented Roseburg, the Crusaders took momentum by the throat, bent it to their will, rallied from a game down and posted a 25-23, 22-25, 19-25, 25-19, 15-8 win at Liberty High School that ended a string of three straight championship losses and sent Jesuit’s five seniors out on top.

by: MILES VANCE - WE WIN - Jesuit senior Megan McCool lets out a scream after the Crusaders won the final point in her team's five-game victory over Roseburg in the Class 6A state championship at Liberty High School in Hillsboro on Saturday night.

“I’m so in shock. I’m so excited. This one was definitely special,” said Jesuit senior outside hitter Megan McCool, a first-team all-tournament selection. “We were not going to let this out of our hands and I’m so glad we did it.”

“I can’t even put it into words. I’m just so happy that all the seniors who’ve been working so hard finally got what they deserved,” said Jesuit senior middle blocker Anne Elorriaga, who had 18 kills in the finale and also won first-team honors. “All the girls on this court deserved it. I’m really proud that we finally did what we wanted.”

“I never thought I would cry as much as I did,” added senior outside hitter Maddie Keudell. “It’s the best feeling going out like this your senior year finally with a win. It’s so exciting.”

Exciting, indeed, but easy? By no means whatsoever.

The Metro League-champion Crusaders (28-5), second-ranked in the state, trailed by as many as six points in the night’s first game, but battled back late against the Southern Oregon Conference-champ Indians (28-10). Jesuit cut the gap to 21-19 on an Elorriaga kill down the line set by Jessica Finn, tied the score at 23-23 with Elorriaga at the service line, then won 25-23 when Roseburg committed two more hitting errors.

The Indians, who ousted three-time defending champ and Jesuit nemesis Central Catholic in a five-game semifinal Friday night, came to play, though, and proved it by winning the next two games 25-22 and 25-19 to seemingly take control of the match.

Roseburg, which landed three players — Anna Bruns, Vanessa Bentley and Raluca Gosman — on the all-tournament first team, took over late in game two, tying the contest at 20-20 on a Bruns kill down the line, then scoring two of the game’s final three points on blocks by Pele Gianotti to win.

The Indians then took that game-two momentum and carried it over to game three, using an 8-0 run that included two Kylie Chong aces to push ahead 22-11. Jesuit got no closer than seven points the rest of the way in its 25-19 loss.

Game four looked like it would be even closer as the Indians tried to close out their first-ever state title victory, and Jesuit’s lead was just 15-14 when Elorriaga missed an attack wide.

But there, with their season — indeed their careers for the Jesuit seniors — hanging in the balance, the Crusaders took over. Jesuit served tough with two aces down the stretch, and added two kills each by Nicole Peterson and Ariana Wiltjer to pull away, Wiltjer ending the game on an attack in the middle of the net that tied the match at 2-2 and sent it on to the decisive fifth game.

There was more drama and heroics ahead in game five too, with the Indians pulling ahead 7-5 on a Gosman kill from the right side. Two rotations later, Jesuit won a sideout to tie the game at 8-8, then sent Keudell to the service line and she — along with her talented teammates — delivered big-time.

Keudell served her team through a 7-0 run that included two aces, a block by McCool and Wiltjer, a Wiltjer kill from the back row, a McCool attack from the left side, and finally, back-to-back Roseburg hitting errors to end the match.

“In that fourth game, we knew that if we pushed from the beginning that we could do it because their (challenge) just motivated us more,” Keudell said. “It is such a relief.”

“For a second I thought we had lost it,” said Wiltjer, who led her team with 20 kills. “I am so proud of my team for how they came back. Everyone fought for it. Every last point.”

“It was definitely a little nerve-wracking out there,” added senior defensive specialist Ireland Massey, who served a six-point run in game three and had two aces in game five. “We just realized we needed to have fun because that’s when we play our best. When we get too tense, we start to make sloppy mistakes, so we realized we just needed to have some fun.”

And when that final Roseburg attack fell to the floor, the Crusaders did indeed get to have “some fun.”

“At first, my mind went blank and then I just reacted,” Elorriaga said. “There are no words for it. I saw the ball drop, and it was like ‘Oh my God. We did it.’”

“It’s unreal. It’s amazing. I can’t even describe it,” Wiltjer said.

“We’re all very excited,” Massey added. “It’s going to be a very good night tonight.”

Jesuit’s win was its third since 2004, and also marked the team’s seventh championship appearance since 1994.

Jesuit def. Clackamas

The Crusaders may have been at their best in Friday’s semifinals, where they raced past third-seeded Three Rivers League-champion Clackamas 25-18, 25-15, 25-19 to earn a fourth straight championship berth.

At the same time on the adjacent court, Jesuit saw top-ranked three-time defending champion Central Catholic get upset by Roseburg, a result that helped set the table for the Crusaders’ Saturday-night title win.

In the win over Clackamas — which went on to beat Central Catholic and finish third in the tournament — McCool stepped up with 12 kills and eight digs, while Peterson added nine kills and Elorriaga and Wiltjer added eight each.

Clackamas did its best to try and slow Jesuit’s march to the title, and took early leads in each game before the Crusaders rallied to victory in three games.

“We lost to them twice (earlier in the year) and beat them once before,” McCool said. “We’ve beaten each other so we knew no one was going to go down easily.”

“I was just excited to play them again,” Finn added.

Jesuit def. Century

Jesuit kicked off its state tournament run with a convincing 25-11, 25-17, 25-18 victory over Pacific Conference champ Century, a team making its first-ever tournament appearance.

The Crusaders blasted out to a 13-3 lead at the start of game one and hardly looked back en route to their 25-11 victory. Game two followed a similar track, with Jesuit pushing ahead 9-1 early on before the Jaguars finally got going. Century battled back within 11-8 and were still down just 21-16 on a Jordan Deming kill before Jesuit edged away.

Game three was the most competitive of the match. It featured five ties and was still even at 12-12 before Jesuit took the lead for good on a missed serve. After that, Elorriaga had four straight kills and McCool closed the contest with a tip for the win.

“The key today was just to go all out because you never know when it’s going to be your last one,” McCool said.

“The last two games were much closer and they really made us work for our points,” Finn added. “Our defense did a great job. They were really key for us this game.”

To see complete photo galleries from these matches, please go to milesvance.exposuremanager.com.