The Valiants beat St. Mary's to win a fourth straight trip to state

BEAVERTON - Valley Catholic's volleyball team may not have won its own league, but the Valiants are still holding out hopes of winning it all at state.

The Valiants proved that big-time on Saturday, racing past St. Mary's of Medford 25-14, 25-19, 25-15 in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs. The win lifted Valley Catholic's season record to 25-4 and sent the Valiants on to the Class 3A state tournament for the fourth straight year.

Valley Catholic, the state's second-ranked team and the Lewis and Clark League runner-up, opens play at state against Blanchet Catholic at 3:15 p.m. Friday at Lane Community College in Eugene. Blanchet is the co-champion of the Pac West Conference and carries a 15-9 season record.

With a win there, the Valiants would play either Burns or Cascade Christian in the state semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday; with a loss its opener, Valley would play the Burns/Cascade Christian loser at 10 a.m. Saturday.

'Saturday's match was a great jumping off point for our trip to Eugene,' said Valley Catholic coach Justin Denham. 'All week leading up to the match, we focused on teamwork and mental strength against playoff opponents. The mental aspect of our game was what led to the strong showing and eventual victory.'

In the win over the 19th-ranked Crusaders on Saturday, the Valiants put together a total team effort, getting their usual big contribution from senior outside hitter Tori Kemper, but big efforts from middle blockers Rebecca Baglai and Maddie Henningsen, as well as right-side hitters Maddie Bernard and Ashley Ferris.

'Ashley may have been the biggest highlight,' Denham said. 'I think Ashley had at least 10 kills from the right side, an offensive outlet we've not had before.'

And the physical contributions that fueled the win over St. Mary's (17-8), the Southern Cascade League runner-up, were a direct result of the positive mental preparation Valley Catholic had made during the week.

'Everyone was focused but relaxed and knew what role they needed to play to help the team,' Denham said. 'When we played Warrington last week, our mental approach to the game was not quite what I would like, but coming out against St. Mary was a different story.'

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