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Crater sets sights on first state crown

Few teams have a resume as complete as Crater’s as the Class 5A state volleyball tournament approaches.

The No. 3-seeded Comets will put their game on display this weekend when the playoffs’ eight remaining teams converge at Liberty High in Hillsboro Friday and Saturday to determine the state champion.

Crater (20-2) faces sixth-seeded Ridgeview (21-6) in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Friday.

The Comets have the second-best record in the tournament, behind only top-seeded Corvallis (22-2), and are making their first appearance in the tournament since 2014, when they were ousted with an 0-2 record.

Crater has never made it to the championship match.

“We have a pretty powerful offense,” said coach Leaf Jensen, “and to me the best defense out there that I’ve seen. The girls are pretty keyed up and ready.”

The quarterfinal winner plays either No. 2 West Albany (21-4) or No. 7 Crook County (20-10) at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

On the other side of the bracket, Corvallis faces No. 8 Hood River Valley (20-4), and No. 4 Wilsonville (19-2) takes on No. 5 Dallas (17-7).

The championship is at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Ridgeview last made it to a finals in 2013, when, in the school’s second year, the Ravens placed fourth in Class 4A.

The teams haven’t played each other this season, but they’ve been in a couple tournaments together.

“This is new for us,” said Jensen, whose team rolled through the Midwestern League with a 16-0 record. “It’s an intense atmosphere. We’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us. We’ve seen each other in tournaments.”

Ridgeview doesn’t have the depth of the Comets, he said, but it has an all-star player in 6-foot junior Rylee Troutman who can take over a match.

Jensen likened Troutman to Churchill standout hitter Taylor Williams.

“They tend to key a lot of offense off her (Troutman),” said Jensen. “They’re solid. I definitely know we can compete with them. We have similar opponents that we’ve both beaten and lost to, so we know they’re tough and competitive. I also know we’re pretty tough, too.”

Crater will do what it can to minimize Troutman — serve away from her, stack the block, assign a spy.

“As far as taking her out, there’s nothing you can really do,” said Jensen. “We have a decent idea of where she wants to swing and can throw defenders there. Then again, they’ll do the same thing to us. I’d like to think we have more weapons.”

Crater’s two losses were to Crook County and Bend in tournament play. Ridgeview has played both multiple times and has won and lost to each.

The Comets were short-handed in their two losses, playing against Crook County without middle blocker Addison Lowder, who attended a wedding, and playing half the match against Bend without outside hitter Nehkyah Ellis, who rolled an ankle in the second set.

Ellis is one of the Comets’ top weapons. She has a team-high 242 kills and is hitting .250 for the season. The 5-10 senior also has 115 digs and 38 aces.

Rane Jensen, a senior libero and the coach’s daughter, has 180 digs and is the team’s best serve-receive asset, passing at a 2.2 average (scale of 3.0). She is also a top defender.

Lowder, a 6-1 senior, has 103 kills, and Maya Van Hook, a 5-7 senior middle, has 97.

Senior defensive specialist Aubrey Kievit has 140 digs and a 2.1 passing average.

Senior setter Jadyn Carothers has 324 assists.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com