The Crusaders beat Sunset 3-0 in a matchup of two of the Metro League's best teams
BEAVERTON - The rest of the Metro League's volleyball teams might have been hoping to find a few chinks in Jesuit's armor this year.
And at some point, they might. But they haven't yet.
Jesuit, the 13-time defending league champion, despite graduating eight seniors from last year's Class 6A state runner-up, opened 2011 with a bang last week, sweeping past Sunset 25-17, 26-24, 25-20 at Jesuit High School on Sept. 22.
The win, along with a 25-16, 25-21, 25-16 victory over Westview on Tuesday, lifted Jesuit's Metro League record to 2-0 and extended its long league winning streak to 138 straight matches. Sunset, meanwhile, was 0-1 and set to face Beaverton yesterday after the Valley Times' press deadline.
'We've been practicing very hard all week for this game and we were locked in and ready to take them on,' said Jesuit junior middle blocker Anne Elorriaga.
'Sunset, they've always been a good team, and we're a young team, so we were just looking to play our best,' said Jesuit senior defensive specialist/libero Madelyn De Rego, the Crusaders' lone senior.
The Apollos, though disappointed with the loss, knew they'd been close. Sunset, which also graduated eight seniors from 2010, squandered a game point in the second set of the night after leading 24-22, and also cut Jesuit's game-three lead to 21-19 before finally coming up short.
'It is a new team and most of us haven't played together before so team bonding has been a strength of ours from the start of the season,' said Sunset senior setter/outset hitter Jenessa Taylor. 'But Jesuit's a really consistent team so we need to limit our errors.'
'There's no margin for error' against Jesuit, added Sunset coach Lad Salness. 'We just need to serve a little tougher and pass a little better.'
Jesuit started fast last week, racing out to a 12-2 lead in game one behind the serving of Jessica Finn and Maddie Keudell and two kills each by Elorriaga and Megan McCool.
Sunset cut its deficit to five points once in the game, with Sammy Embree serving a five-point run that made it 19-14, and to six twice at 22-16 on a Jesuit hitting error and to 23-17 on a Taylor kill before the Crusaders finished the game on an Apollo hitting error and a kill from Ariana Wiltjer.
Game two was the best battle of the night and featured three ties and five lead changes. Sunset led 7-3 early thanks to kills from Kendall Brock and Anne Marie Richards, and a Taylor block, but Jesuit roared back with a five-point run served by De Rego that included two Wiltjer kills.
Jesuit kept that momentum too, extending its run to 15-7 and an 18-10 lead behind Elorriaga and Keudell. But Sunset wasn't done yet - the Apollos rallied with a 15-9 run of their own to lead 24-22, a stretch highlighted by five Taylor aces in a nine-point stretch at the service line. Emily Doyle, Maddie Fey and Megan DeMots also scored points for Sunset in that stretch.
But Jesuit steadied itself there, won the serve on a Wiltjer kill, then got a Sunset error and back-to-back Elorriaga kills to close out the game at 26-24.
'If we win that one, it's a whole different ballgame because then they believe they can win,' Salness said of his Apollos.
Game three was tight early on too, with Sunset leading 8-3 on a Taylor kill before Jesuit got started again. Wiltjer notched a kill for a sideout that cut her team's deficit to 9-6, and De Rego then stepped to the line and served her team through nine straight points and a 15-9 lead.
Jesuit's lead was still six when Elorriaga scored on a tip to make it 21-15, but Taylor came back with a kill and Fey served up the next three points to bring her team within 21-19.
Keudell stopped the bleeding then and there, however, and Wiltjer added kills on three of the final four points for 25-20 game-three margin.
'From the beginning of this season, we've been trying to work on our composure and staying in games and battling back throughout and I think this game really represented how we've been improving every day,' Elorriaga said.
'We work hard at practice every day,' De Rego said. 'There's a lot of chemistry on this team and we work well together.'
For its part, Sunset learned a lot in the loss and vowed to get better for the two teams' next meeting.
'We learned that we need to practice more on blocking,' Taylor said. 'When we're playing (lesser) teams, it's easy for our liberos to pick up because they're so fast and consistent, but we need to put up a stronger block and practice more on it because Jesuit's hitters hit hard and they hit angles.'
'They've got those two big middles and they just change the game,' Salness said of Elorriaga and Wiltjer. 'It's a different angle on the court so that was our biggest problem. It's just a different trajectory.'
To see a complete photo gallery from this game, go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.