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Crusaders win a trip to 6A state

Jesuit outlasts Sunset in five games to return to the Class 6A tournament
by: Miles Vance FOR STATE – Jesuit’s Anne Elorriaga (center) celebrates with her team after beating Sunset in five games on Saturday at Jesuit High School.

BEAVERTON - Jesuit's volleyball team feels like it has something to prove.

And the Crusaders know that there's no better place to prove themselves than at the Class 6A state tournament.

Jesuit, which won a 14th straight Metro League championship (shared with Aloha) this year, made sure it got that chance, opening the Class 6A state playoffs on Nov. 2 with a 25-19, 26-24, 25-10 win over North Salem, then adding a 25-20, 21-25, 29-31, 26-24, 15-7 victory over Sunset on Saturday.

Those two wins, both at Jesuit, lifted Jesuit's overall record to 20-7 and sent the Crusaders back to the Class 6A state tournament yet again.

'It's definitely a big deal,' said Jesuit junior outside hitter Megan McCool. 'I'm so happy. I'm ecstatic. It's a big deal to get to the tournament. That's all we could wish for.'

'This game will definitely set us up for success at state and I can't wait to see how we do,' added junior middle blocker Anne Elorriaga.

The No. 3 Crusaders will face Central Valley Conference champion Sprague (21-5 and the sixth-ranked team in the state) in their 6A tournament opener, set for 10 a.m. Friday at Liberty High School. With a win there, the Crusaders would play in the state semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Friday; with a loss there, Jesuit would play again at 8 a.m. Saturday at Liberty.

That said, Jesuit's road to state was its toughest in a very long time, pushed to a fifth game by Sunset on Saturday night at Jesuit High School. But that challenge made Saturday's victory even sweeter for the Crusaders.

'I think we just all decided that this was make it or break it time,' McCool said. 'This was win or we lose and we're out. It was competitive, but we fed off of that.'

It was 'easily the most important, most rewarding win that we had, and the first one that we had to push to five,' Elorriaga said. 'I'm so proud of us for pulling through.'

Sunset, meanwhile, fell just short of a third straight state tournament berth after beating West Salem 25-20, 26-24, 25-18 in its Nov. 2 playoff opener. The Apollos, the third-place finishers from the Metro League and third-place team at state in both 2009-10, saw their season end at 14-12.

'This game was a really good game to end on because we played so hard and we put everything out on the floor,' said Sunset senior setter/outside hitter Janessa Taylor. 'I'd much rather end on a match like this, putting everything out there.'

The Crusaders, who played without middle blocker Ariana Wiltjer, muscled past Sunset 25-20 in game one, and were tied at 19-19 on a McCool tip in game two. But Taylor won a sideout, Emily Doyle served an ace, and one rotation later, Taylor connected on a crosscourt kill, then served an ace to win.

Game three was a classic, with neither team leading by more than four points - and that early at 8-4 - and the score tied 13 times along the way. Taylor staved off a Jesuit game point with a kill for 24-24, McCool and Elorriaga did the same for the Crusaders, but Sunset's Nicole Nagel connected from the left side for 30-29, and a Jesuit hitting error gave Sunset the win and a 2-1 lead.

Game four followed a similar arc, with Jesuit ahead 24-20 late before the Apollos came back with kills by both Taylor and Anne Marie Richards and two Jesuit errors for a 24-24 tie. But the Crusaders got an Elorriaga kill from the right side and a second Elorriaga spike from the middle for the win.

In game five, however, with a state tournament berth on the line, Jesuit pulled away early. Elorriaga served her team through a four-point run to give her team a 6-1 lead, the Apollos drew back within 6-4 with another Doyle kill, but that was about the end of the highlights for Sunset.

Jesuit scored nine of the night's final 12 points to win, with Maddie Keudell, Macy Naughton and McCool all cashing in to close out the victory.

This 'will definitely help us out,' McCool said. 'There's a lot on the line. There's a lot of competitive teams and we'll have to bring it.'

'We came out strong and we were ready to go' Elorriaga said. 'Those last two games, we really pushed ourselves and took the momentum.'

'I told the girls this year that the biggest goal was to convince the 13 seniors … that if we put it together, we could make a run,' Sunset coach Lad Salness said. 'We didn't know where it would end, but they grew a lot.'

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