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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Cascade Christian slips by St. Mary’s

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Cascade Christian head coach Rob Kleker has a young bunch on his hands this fall, but the Challengers’ first step in the 2021 volleyball season received solid grades.

Cascade Christian picked up a pair of wins to sweep Saturday’s action at its home gym, rallying from two sets down to beat rival St. Mary’s (24-26, 21-25, 25-14, 25-20, 15-8) after picking up a win over Harrisburg in four sets (25-17, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20) to begin the day.

“We’re young — today we played a senior, a junior and the rest were freshmen and sophomores,” Kleker said, “so some of it is just those kids learning and learning the flow of the game and getting involved. That’s what happened today.”

St. Mary’s (1-1), which played in the first two matches of the day, ending up splitting with the loss to Cascade. The Crusaders beat Harrisburg in four sets 23-25, 25-14, 25-18, 29-27.

“For our season opener, playing nine straight sets was quite a bit, and they were definitely gassed going into the third set (against Cascade Christian),” St. Mary’s head coach Katie Miller said. “But we were competitive for most of the day. We’re still working some things out and we kind of hurt ourselves in the match against Cascade because we missed quite a few serves.”

Against St. Mary’s, Cascade Christian (2-0) got 17 kills and three aces from sophomore Maddi Carter and junior Ellie Harrington added 10 kills and two aces. Challengers freshman Poppy Freeman added six kills and sophomore setter Molly Griffin recorded 36 assists and two aces.

For the Crusaders, senior Lainey Stranberg led her team with 11 kills, while sophomore Maddie Ward added seven kills and three blocks. Junior Kaitlyn Hansen recorded 22 assists and sophomore Emma Johnston had 20 digs.

“St. Mary’s is a good team and they’re much improved over last year,” Kleker said, “so it kind of took a second of going back and forth — especially in that first set — of being tight and going extras for the kids to get a little comfortable and then going and finishing. Once they got comfortable, we kind of took advantage of (St. Mary’s) with our serve and forced some errors and capitalized on them.”

Why that was possible was easy for Miller to identify.

“(Cascade) got us on our heels for quite a bit for the third, fourth and fifth sets,” she said. “We kind of lost momentum and struggled to gain that back. We were playing a little tight and they have some tough servers. They definitely capitalized on their serving.”

In the win over Harrisburg (0-2), Cascade was able to get up by two sets before closing things out in four.

Carter was again a consistent source of offense for the Challengers, recording 14 kills and four aces. Harrington added 10 kills, while Griffin had 28 assists and two aces.

“It was good, and I would give us a solid B to B-plus,” Kleker said. “There’s definitely room to grow and things we can improve, but definitely happy with the way the kids played and the performance today.”

Johnston led St. Mary’s with 15 kills and five aces against Harrisburg, while Stranberg and junior Kelsey Dunn each had 14 kills. Hansen recorded 44 assists and junior Albie Borovansky came through with 25 digs.

As a team, the Crusaders recorded 53 kills in the win.

“Our serves were really strong,” Miller said of the key to topping Harrisburg. “We finished with 15 aces, we were able to run and we had a little more pep in our step.”

CHURCHILL 3, EAGLE POINT 1: At Eagle Point, Eagle Point started strong but couldn’t maintain that momentum, tiring down the stretch as Churchill pulled away for a 21-25, 25-15, 25-12, 25-13 triumph.

Senior Paige Green led the Eagles (0-1) with five kills, while sophomore Emma Kness had 18 digs and four kills and sophomore setter Makynlee Schauffler chipped in with 13 assists and four kills.

Eagle Point also got four kills from junior Abby Trautman in the opener for both teams.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSt Mary's Maddie Ward tips the ball over for a point against Cascade Christian Saturday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Maddi Carter makes a hit for a point against St Mary's Saturday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSt Mary's Kelsey Dunn makes a hit for a point against Cascade Christian Saturday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSt Mary's Kelsey Dunn makes a hit for a point against Cascade Christian Saturday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSt Mary's Maddie Ward gets the ball past Cascade Christian's Molly Griffin for a point Saturday in Medford.