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The Cascade Christian volleyball team poses for a picture after beating St. Mary's to clinch the top seed to the state tournament.

Challengers in title match; Comets fall

Cascade Christian’s primary goal this fall has been to win a third straight Class 3A volleyball state championship.

A secondary hope was that it would again face Santiam Christian along the way.

That opportunity has arrived.

Cascade Christian put itself in position for another title with a five-set semifinal victory over Blanchet Catholic Friday at Forest Grove High School.

Caroline McMahon, the Challengers’ senior hitter and reigning player of the year, tipped the ball over the net for the final point in a 25-17, 23-25, 25-16, 21-25, 15-12 triumph.

Cascade Christian (22-5), the top seed, will knock heads with No. 2 Santiam Christian (23-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday for the championship. The Eagles swept South Umpqua, 25-17, 25-23, 25-18, in the other semifinal.

It will be a matchup of last year’s finalists, when Cascade Christian claimed a five-set victory in which only one game was decided by as many as five points.

“I’m excited to see them,” said Challengers coach Rob Kleker. “Hopefully we’ll be able to come down from this one in time to be able to play tomorrow. ... We know they’re coming out and looking for redemption and revenge from last season. It should make for a good match, a highly spirited and intense matchup.”

The two teams met a month ago at Santiam Christian, which is in Adair Village near Corvallis. The Eagles won in five sets after Cascade Christian got off to a good start.

“We thought the match got away from us early in the year,” said Kleker. “We have a chance to go toe-to-toe with them and see how it shakes out. We were hoping to get back and see them again, so it’ll be nice.”

It took some doing to get here, however.

After dispatching Burns in an 8 a.m. quarterfinal, 25-16, 25-17, 25-17, the Challengers had a fight on their hands with Blanchet (18-6).

In the final set, Cascade Christian opened a 5-0 lead, forcing the Cavaliers to play catch-up. Blanchet twice got within one point, at 8-7 and 10-9, but couldn’t get over the hump.

McMahon had a booming kill to the middle of the Cavaliers’ defense to give Cascade Christian a 13-10 lead, but Ally Jones dinked a shot in as a Blanchet made it 13-11.

Jones then served into the net for a Cascade Christian point, but Taylor Cave returned the favor, leaving the score 14-12 before McMahon finished it with her softly lofted shot.

McMahon, as usual, was a force.

She had 26 kills and 19 digs.

“The bigger the moment,” said Kleker, “the bigger she shows up. She was all over the place. The bigger the moment, the more she wants the ball coming her way. You know you’re going to get big things from a kid like that.”

Olivia Borg had 12 kills and 12 digs for the Challengers, Kaylee Cannon notched 11 kills and 11 digs, Gabbi Burton had nine kills and Cave produced 55 assists and 13 digs.

“It was a really nice, balanced effort, which makes it even better,” said Kleker. “We had a ton of kids involved.”

In the quarterfinal against Burns, McMahon again led in kills with 16, while Hannah Stanfield recorded seven aces, Cannon had six kills and Cave 24 assists.

RIDGEVIEW 3, CRATER 1: At Hillsboro, Ridgeview took advantage of a subpar serving stretch by Crater late in the fourth set to post a 25-17, 25-18, 24-26, 25-19 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A tournament at Liberty High.

Third-seeded Crater (20-3) plays No. 7 Crook County (20-11) in the consolation semifinals this morning at 8. No. 2 West Albany downed Crook County, 22-25, 25-17, 25-16, 25-20.

Crater can place as high as fourth, which would earn a trophy. The Comets have never trophied at state.

Two thirds of the way through the fourth set, Crater had a one-point lead. But the Comets missed four of six serves in one stretch and the Ravens (22-6) pulled away.

“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot a bit,” said Crater coach Leaf Jensen. “Nothing in volleyball breaks your momentum like giving up a point without the other team having to do anything.”

“We just struggled in places were normally don’t,” he added.

Nehkyah Ellis had 17 kills, seven digs and an ace for Crater. Addison Lowder added 11 kills and Maya Van Hook eight.

Rane Jensen posted 22 digs, Heather Colmer had 13 and Aubrey Kievit eight.

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