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St. Paul regroups to take fourth

The Bucks fall to eventual champion Imbler, but stampede their way past Trinity and Lowell


by: BILLY GATES - Seniors Madison Caldwell (left) and Delaney Sump rise up to the net to challenge a shot in the opening round of the 1A state volleyball tournament against the Imbler Panthers.Anticipating they would have to upset tournament favorite Imbler in the quarterfinals, the St. Paul Buckaroos knew they would have to be at their best in order to have a shot at winning a state title.

Although the 3-0 score says otherwise, that’s exactly what the Bucks did, even in a losing effort.

The margin between the two teams was just seven points – almost as close, mathematically, as a three-set sweep can get – as the Panthers prevailed 25-22, 28-26, 25-23 Friday at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.

But as the tournament wore on, St. Paul’s quality became more and more evident, as the Bucks rolled to 3-0 wins over No. 7 seed Trinity Lutheran and No. 1 seed Lowell to claim fourth place.

“We were right there several times within two points of beating them and they’d come back in it,” coach Lesli Hiller said of Imbler. “You can’t see it in the scores, but we came very close to beating them in pretty much every game. We just didn’t drive it home, I guess.”

Senior middle blocker Delaney Sump hit .591 for the game, finishing with 15 kills and four stuff blocks to lead the offense, which also got four kills from Emma Coleman. Sara Pierson added two stuff blocks of her own and Cameron Stone collected eight digs to pace the defense.

“It was really hard hitting, back and forth with long volleys,” Hiller said. “It was just an amazing game. It’s just one of those things that didn’t twist our way. It was a very intense match and I think they felt that way too, where they came out of it respecting us as a team.”

Still, it was a bitter pill for the players to swallow, but the team gained some perspective on their play when they returned Friday night to watch Imbler handle No. 2 seed Dufur with relative ease, winning 25-19, 25-12, 25-15 to advance to Saturday’s final.

“That made the girls feel a little bit better because we knew we were right there with them,” Hiller said. “It was kind of bittersweet. If one or two things went a different way, it could’ve been a different story.”

The Bucks turned around to slam Trinity Lutheran 25-19, 25-16, 25-17 on the strength of a more balanced attack Saturday morning in the consolation semifinals. Sump led the team again with14 kills, but senior Jessica Wilmes posted seven, Pierson totaled six and Alex Coleman had four.

It was a similar story Saturday afternoon against Lowell, which had been upended 3-1 in the first round by fellow Casco League squad Country Christian, which placed fifth after losing 3-1 to Dufur in the third-place match.

by: BILLY GATES - Alex Coleman sends a ball over the net against the Panthers. St. Paul went on the lose the match 3-0 to Imbler, which went on to win the state championship. The Buckaroos rallied on the second day of the tournament, beating the Trinity Lutheran Saints in the consolation semifinals before facing the No. 1-seeded Lowell Red Devils in the consolation finals. St. Paul beat the Devils 3-0 to come home with fourth place for the second time in three years.Stone followed up a 14-dig effort against the Saints by amassing 10 more against the Red Devils, as St. Paul won 25-14, 25-20, 25-22. Sump had 12 kills, Pierson nine and Emma Coleman four.

Sump and Stone were both named to the all-tournament team for the second consecutive year, with Sump earning a first-team nod and Stone making the second team.

“Especially for Cameron to be a libero and get it two years in a row is pretty phenomenal because they never recognize liberos, really,” Hiller said. “It meant a lot for her. Delaney just played a real strong tournament, did very well and definitely earned her spot.”

In the last four years, the Bucks have been one of the most consistent 1A programs in the state, placing fifth in 2010, fourth in 2011 and third in 2012. Hiller said it’s a testament to the caliber of athletes in St. Paul, especially since this team had to replace five seniors, breaking in two new setters and several outside hitters who had not seen much varsity time entering the year.

“There’s just a drive out in St. Paul, where the kids really want to succeed,” Hiller said. “I think it carries through with them beyond high school to their careers or whatever they decide to do in life.”

The team was also grateful for the support proffered by its fans, especially on Saturday after supporters were no longer split between the football and volleyball teams.

“It was just incredible to have that many people come out,”?Hiller said. “We weren’t in the championship match, but they were all there to support us, cheer for us. We packed the bleachers.”




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