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Valiants aim high for state

The VC volleyball team prepares for another long state playoff run
by: Miles Vance TORI TIME – Valley Catholic’s Tori Kemper scores against Catlin Gabel.

PORTLAND - The Valley Catholic volleyball team hasn't been perfect this year.

The Valiants, long a Class 3A power and a regular participant in the state tournament, have lost to Lewis and Clark League foe Corbett three times this year and also finished second to the top-ranked Cardinals in the regular season.

That said, Valley Catholic believes it still has a chance at a perfect ending.

The Valiants put a positive end on their regular season Monday night, racing past Catlin Gabel 25-20, 25-11, 25-18 at Catlin Gabel High School. The win capped VC's regular season at 10-2 (23-4 overall).

'This year, we have a really good shot and we're all more than willing to work hard,' said Valley Catholic senior outside hitter Tori Kemper. 'I think by our determination and how bad all of us want it, we can go really far.'

'We have strong players on the team, but we have a stronger team than we do players,' said senior middle blocker Rebecca Baglai. 'I think that's what's going to let us go the distance.'

'I think they realize it's time to go,' added Valley Catholic coach Justin Denham, whose team took fourth at state a year ago. 'They've earned the opportunity to play in the postseason, so now it's time to get it up and rolling. It comes down to earning a shot and taking a shot.'

In their Monday win, the Valiants pulled away in the latter half of each game and left the Eagles (5-7 in league play, 11-11 overall) behind with their blocking and tough serving. In game one, VC pushed ahead 17-12 when Madeline Henningsen connected on a free ball for VC, but the Eagles responded with three straight points and were still within 18-16 when Catlin's Kassi Carter-Howard made a kill from the middle.

But Valley got a sideout on a missed serve, and Henningsen then served her team to a 22-16 lead on a Baglai spike. One rotation later, Baglai ended things at 25-20 with a right-side kill.

In similar fashion, Catlin was up 8-5 early in game two, but the Valiants pushed ahead 15-11, then took total control when senior Amanda Stevens stepped to the service line for VC. Stevens served up 10 straight points to close out the game, getting two kills along the way from Baglai, one block each from Baglai and Katharine Jesse, an Ashley Ferris tip, and a block by Baglai and Jesse for the win.

Catlin Gabel hung around longer in game three, leading 18-14 after three service points from Carter-Howard, but Kemper won a sideout with a kill from the left side, then served out the match in impressive fashion.

Maddie Bernard got things rolling with a kill from the right side, Kemper served up five straight aces with her deadly jump-serve, VC got another point on a block, Kemper added two more aces, and then Bernard scored from the right side to end the game at 25-18.

'I felt like I wasn't really doing my best in other areas so I felt like I should make up for it,' Kemper said of her late-game serving run.

Now, the Valiants can set their sights on another run at state.

The seniors 'would just love to take the championship this year. It's the last chance we have,' Baglai said. 'But it's not just the seniors that want it. The (other players) want it just as badly as we do.'

'We just want to end on a good note,' Kemper added, 'and not just for the seniors. Not just for the senior class, but to build the program for future years too.'

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.