Three teams tie for the Three Rivers League volleyball title, thanks to OC

The upstart Oregon City Pioneers have new best-friends in volleyball in league rivals West Linn and Clackamas.

Heading into last week's league final round it appeared that Lake Oswego had wrapped up the Three Rivers League volleyball title. With one match remaining, the Lakers (7-2) were one win in front of West Linn (6-3) and Clackamas (6-3), with only a match with the struggling Pioneers (then 3-6) remaining.

But in last week's final match, the Pioneers pulled off the league upset of the year, defeating the Lakers in five games, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21, 22-25, 15-7, to the delight of a supportive home crowd.

Meanwhile Clackamas and West Linn took care of business, the Cavaliers dispatching with Lakeridge (25-17, 25-19, 25-23), and the Lions downing Canby (23-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-21).

With league play complete, Clackamas (7-3), Lake Oswego (7-3) and West Linn (7-3) finished as league co-champs.

It was huge for the Lions, because they've been league champions or league co-champions for each of the last 16 seasons.

It was also huge for Clackamas, because the Cavaliers last season tied West Linn for the TRL crown, earning a share of their first league championship since 1996.

Clackamas coach Jim Stultz said that he was not really surprised that the Pioneers took care of business in last week's match with the Lakers.

'I was more surprised that Oregon City had not done better than they have this year,' Stultz said. 'They've got two of the best hitters in the league and they have a great libero…. Our league was just really tough.'

Stultz said of West Linn coach Carl Neuberger and his seemingly invincible Lions, 'Carl works his magic in many ways.'

The Cavaliers had a balanced attack in last week's league final with the Pacers. Kelsie Christensen (18 kills), Shelby Vasconcellos-Mattocks (10 kills) and Nicole Lisoski (10 kills) headed the offense.

Kiana Miller served 16 points.

Shantel Gritsch came through with 23 successful digs and Hannah Stultz had 40 assists.

Coach Stultz said he has high hopes for his Cavaliers as they gear up for the Class 6A state playoffs.

'We had a little [late-season] lull, but I think that in the last week, we've got everything back together,' Stultz said. 'If we play anything like we did in the West Linn Tournament, I think our chances of reaching the final eight are really good. And from there, it's whoever is playing the best.'

Clackamas has not made it to the state tournament's final eight since 2006. Last year the Cavaliers lost to Oregon City in the final round of the state playoffs and the year before they fell to Central Catholic in the round of 16.

The Cavaliers will enter this year's Class 6A state playoffs ranked second only to top-ranked Central Catholic. They played the Rams tough in the Oct. 22 West Linn Invitational, yielding to the Rams in the championship final of the tournament, 25-22, 25-23.

'We'll play the 31st seed [out of 32] in the first round of the playoffs,' said Stultz. 'Then we'll meet the Thurston/Tigard winner [for a berth in the eight-team state tournament].'

The Cavaliers will have the home-court advantage in both playoff games. The playoff matches are scheduled tonight and on Saturday.

Pioneers bow out

The Pioneers proved last week that they can compete with some of the best teams around. The Lake Oswego team they beat last week enters the state playoffs ranked ninth in the state.

But the inconsistency that has plagued Oregon City much of the season came into play over the weekend when the Pioneers watched their season come to an end, losing a state playoff play-in match at 19th-ranked Southridge, 25-10, 25-15, 25-23.

Outside hitters Sam Harthun and Raechel Schimpf were at the top of their game in last week's match with LO. Harthun put the ball to the floor for 25 kills and Schimpf had 18 kills.

Senior libero Rachel Roberts played a pivotal role in the upset of the Lakers with her spot-on passing, Oregon City coach Syd Yamasaki said.

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