Challengers reach state finals

Cascade Christian is playing like a defending champion at the Class 3A state volleyball tournament.

The Challengers faced little adversity in reaching today’s finals by registering a pair of sweeps in their first two matches at Forest Grove High. Cascade Christian defeated Blanchet Catholic, 25-19, 25-12, 25-15, in the opening round of the eight-school tournament. In the semifinals, the Challengers blew past Vale, 25-6, 25-9, 25-19.

Cascade Christian will face Santiam Christian, which defeated Coquille in four games in the other semifinal, in today’s finals at 6 p.m.

Cascade defeated Vale in last year’s semifinals and also beat the Vikings in three straight at home earlier in the season.

Junior outside hitter Caroline McMahon set the tone for the Challengers in the semifinals.

McMahon put down 19 kills and served seven of Cascade’s 16 aces in the match.

“She was everywhere,” said Cascade Christian coach Rob Kleker. “She let the game come to her. It seemed like everything she touched, she put away.”

In Game 1, McMahon served seven straight — with three aces — to help the Challengers jump out to a 10-1 lead.

Cascade kept the pressure on the Vikings by bolting to an 11-2 lead in the second set.

“We came out and served so well,” said Kleker. “We kept them off balance the entire match. They really had a hard time returning our serve and we got a lot of free balls.”

Junior libero Aubrey Kievit came up with 27 digs to go with two aces and setter Allison Winter dished out 27 assists and provided three aces.

Kaylee Cannon and Olivia Borg each contributed four kills and Cannon provided three aces.

The Challengers also got good production from freshman Hannah Stanfield, who was moved into the starting lineup after Alyssa Vaughn was lost for the season with a knee injury.

“Hannah has been solid defensively,” said Kleker. “She does the little things you need done.”

The Challengers showed a balanced attack in their tournament opener against Blanchet Catholic.

McMahon led the front line with 13 kills, while Cannon added nine kills, Gabbi Burton slammed seven and Borg had six.

“Kaylee and Gabbi really came through and provided some offense,” said Kleker.

Winter, a senior, passed out 30 assists and Kievit dug 19 balls.

With four starters returning off last year’s championship team, Kleker says the Challengers’ expectations are high.

“We just have to stay grounded,” said Kleker. “We’re familiar with the situation. We understand the stakes. We’re not so concerned with the opponent but need to focus on doing what we need to do.”

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