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League Champs!


Rangers sweep Gladstone, Molalla and La Salle to win league championship

With three matches remaining in league play, the Estacada volleyball team knew there wasn’t room for mistakes, as they sat in a dead heat with Madras for the league title.by: PHOTOS BY LOREN NIBBE - Sam Hammons and Rachel Lowe go up for the block, as both girls continue to dominate opponents this season.

The good news for the Rangers was that their 3-0 victory over Madras a couple of weeks ago earned them the tie-breaker should both teams finish with just one loss.

Before getting ahead of themselves, however, the Rangers needed to get through the rest of their league, and before the heated finale against La Salle, the Rangers faced off against Gladstone and Molalla.

In the first match, against Molalla, the Rangers earned a 25-7, 25-16, 26-24 sweep despite what head coach Shawna Lippert described as sloppy play.

“We had too many errors and unfocused moments,” she said. “Fortunately, we did have a few girls that played very well.”

Among them was Jessica Wheeler, who led the team with eight aces. Tori Johnson and Rachel Lowe each logged 10 kills as well.

In the second match of the week, the Rangers defeated Gladstone on senior night, 25-13, 25-10, 25-8.

“We just want to thank all the people who have supported us all season, as we had a big crowd for this match once again,” Lippert said. “We have been so thrilled by how positive people have been this season, and getting all of the support on game days has been instrumental to our success.”

On the floor, the Rangers were led by another strong performance from senior Sam Hammons, who led the team with 10 kills, two stuff blocks and an astounding .769 hitting percentage.

“Our hitters were on fire, especially Sam,” Lippert said. “She played with such poise and she hit and blocked the ball better than I’ve ever seen her do before.”

Rachel Lowe also added six kills for the Rangers, while Johnson had nine aces and Davies had four aces as part of the team’s 20 aces.

With two of their final three matches down, all that stood between them and the Tri-Valley League title was a rematch with rival La Salle. Both figuratively and literally, however, the match came sooner than expected.

Lippert had been training her team for a Tuesday matchup against La Salle, when Monday afternoon she got a bit of surprising news.

“Our assistant coach looked online and found that it said we were supposed to play on Monday, not Tuesday,” Lippert said. “So she called La Salle and they said that yes, the match was in fact on Monday. Turned out, our athletic director and theirs had decided to do the game on Monday, but no one had told us.”

So at 1:45 p.m. on Monday, Lippert got confirmation that not only had the game been moved up, but her team needed to be on a bus immediately.

“We found out at 1:45 p.m., and here this was for the league championship,” Lippert said. “We had just done a light practice Friday, but if I knew we were playing Monday, we would have practiced Sunday as well.”

Fortunately, the surprise had little affect on the red-hot Rangers.

After coming out slowly in the first game and falling behind 5-0, the Rangers took control for the rest of the match, winning the first game 25-18 behind an 18-4 run.

“We fell behind by as many as eight, but once we got over everything, we just took it to them,” Lippert said. “The second game was actually our best, because we were in control the entire time.”

In that game, the Rangers cruised to a 25-16 victory and moved to within one game of another league title.

La Salle wasn’t going to quit at home, however, and the Falcons rallied from a five-point deficit in the third game to force overtime. In the end, however, the Rangers were too much, as they earned a 30-28 win to clinch the league title.

“It was so fun,” Lippert said. “I can’t tell you how satisfying it was. The only time we were rattled was the first five points, but from then on I just saw the look in our girls’ eyes. We’ve been battling the mental part of the game for a long time, but tonight they just had it.”

Among the standouts against La Salle were Katie Nation, Haley Lusher, Rachel Lowe and Sam Hammons. Nation led the team with four of the team’s 12 aces, while Lusher had 21 digs and 20 serve receives with just five total errors in what Lippert called her best match of the year.

On the front line, La Salle keyed in on Lowe and did everything they could to contain her, holding her to 10 kills, but that opened up lanes for Hammons, who notched 14 kills and an impressive 50-percent hit percentage.

With the win, the Rangers moved to 10th overall in the state, a ranking that could change after the final matches are played this week. By winning league, however, the Rangers skip past the play-in round, and will play their first playoff match Nov. 3, likely on the road.