The Cascade Christian volleyball team celebrates its five-set win over Santiam Christian on Saturday. [MARK YLEN/ALBANY DEMOCRAT-HERALD]

Challengers capture consecutive crowns

FOREST GROVE — The Cascade Christian volleyball team defended its Class 3A state championship by rallying to edge Santiam Christian 21-25, 20-25, 26-24, 26-24, 15-8 on Saturday at Forest Grove High.

Caroline McMahon posted 42 kills, 17 digs and four aces to lead the top-seeded Challengers (25-3), who had trouble making adjustments and executing prior to turning the momentum of the match in the third game.

“I told the kids that they needed to remember what we did to get here,” Challengers coach Rob Kleker said. “Once they decided to loosen up and let the game come to them, good things started to happen.”

“They were more searching for answers than being panicked or scared,” he added. “Once we got over the frustration, then we were fine.”

Although McMahon, the Southern Cascade League’s player of the year, posted eye-popping numbers, Cascade Christian used a total team effort to put away the No. 3 seed Eagles (22-4).

Junior libero Aubrey Kievit, the SCL’s defensive player of the year, came up with 24 digs and keyed the Challengers defensive backline, providing outstanding passing in the serve-receive game that led to scoring opportunities for hitters Kaylee Cannon (eight kills), Olivia Borg (seven kills) and Gabbi Burton (five kills).

“They were smart hitters,” Kievit said of Santiam Christian. “I just knew I needed to do whatever I needed to do to keep the ball alive. And our blockers did an amazing job of reading the hitters and staying in the middle.”

Santiam Christian was one of three teams to beat the Challengers this season, 3-1 in a nonleague match in which one of Cascade Christian’s top players, senior outside hitter Alyssa Vaughn, went down for the season with an injury.

“This was definitely my favorite game this year,” said senior setter Allison Winter, who tallied 59 assists. “We knew couldn’t play all defensively. We just had to use our strengths against them. Intensity just really brought us that win.”

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