Story and photos by Gini Davis
The back of the 2015 state championships T-shirts worn by many Creswell parents and fans read “Unfinished Business” – the unfinished business being the 3A volleyball state title that narrowly slipped through the Lady Bulldogs’ fingers in the championship game against Santiam Christian in 2014.
Ranked #1 all season and undefeated at 25-0 when they entered this year’s state tournament, everyone felt it: this was their year.
But it was not to be. Up 2-0 in the championship game against Vale on Saturday, Nov. 7, the Lady Dawgs saw their dream begin to fall apart in the third set with some well-placed hits and tips by Vale and Creswell dropped that set – and then the next, despite at one point leading 22-19 and being just three points away from having the school’s first-ever volleyball title in their grasp.
When it was all said and done, the fired-up Vale Vikings had clinched the state championship, 20-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-23, 15-11 and the Lady Dawgs once again settled for second place, for the third time in school history.
“We knew going in that Vale had everything we had plus some – they have a really good setter, a really good libero, really good outside hitters, plus an amazing middle hitter who could really put the ball away,” said Creswell Head Coach Anna Baltrusch.
“Even though we won the first two games, we knew they weren’t just going to go away,” Baltrusch added. “That’s how it is at state – it’s that do-or-die mentality, so if you want to put a team away you’ve really got to stay focused, go after everything and keep putting the ball away.”
Cassie Cunningham slammed 20 kills and scooped 33 digs against Vale to pace the Lady Dawgs. Josie Bohman added 10 kills, 37 digs, two stuff blocks and a service ace; Hannah Wheeler had eight kills, two stuff blocks and an ace; Alyssa DuFault had four kills and two stuff blocks; and Bailey Howell had four kills and an ace.
Libero Madisen Eusted collected a team-high 38 digs and setter McKenna Cunningham provided 47 assists and also had an ace.
“The girls fought hard, they played hard, they didn’t give up until the end,” Baltrusch said. “We were playing a team equally as good as we are, and the ball just fell their direction more times than ours there at the end of the match.”
In advancing to the state championships, Creswell defeated ninth-ranked Sheridan 25-12, 26-24, 25-21 in their state quarterfinals game and fourth-ranked Rainier 25-22, 25-15, 25-15 in their state semifinals game. Both of those games were played on Nov. 6.
Against Rainier, Bohman led Creswell with 12 kills, 11 digs and an ace. Cassie Cunningham added eight kills and six digs; Howell had five kills, eight digs and two aces; Wheeler had five kills, two stuff blocks and an ace; and DuFault had five stuff blocks.
Eusted scooped a team-high 20 digs and also had an ace. McKenna Cunningham provided 32 assists and also had six digs and two aces.
Against Sheridan, Bohman led with 13 kills and also had a team-high 26 digs and one ace. Cassie Cunningham added eight kills, 11 digs and three aces; Wheeler had five kills and five stuff blocks; Eusted had 12 digs and an ace; and McKenna Cunningham provided 32 assists and had three aces.
In other state trophy contests on Nov. 7, Santiam Christian defeated Rainier 25-17, 25-13, 25-18 in the third/fifth place game, and Coquille defeated Glide 19-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-22 in the fourth/sixth place game.
Three Creswell players, McKenna Cunningham, Bohman and Eusted, earned spots on the All-Tournament First Team. “It was kind of neat that all three of our seniors got it,” Baltrusch said.
Cunningham was also named Creswell’s Player of the Game for the championship match.
“We had a fantastic season at 27-0 going into the championship game, and the girls played really good even in that game,” Baltrusch said. “It wasn’t how we wanted it to end, but I’m pretty proud of the kids and how hard they fought.”
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