MERLIN — Cascade Christian volleyball coach Rob Kleker treated it like a state playoff game, and his Challengers delivered as such Saturday in a Far West League championship match against South Umpqua at North Valley High.
The two-time defending Class 3A state champion Challengers used the big-play ability of senior Caroline McMahon and overall poise to fend off the Lancers for a 25-23, 14-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-7 triumph.
The teams entered with identical 9-1 records in Far West League play, with Cascade Christian (19-5) moving to No. 1 in the 3A state power rankings and South Umpqua (16-4) moving to No. 3.
“You love being able to play a tough opponent like that, especially going into the playoff season,” said Kleker.
“The kids just kind of buckled down,” he added of the hard-fought victory. “We didn’t necessarily play our best, South Umpqua did a pretty outstanding job of keeping us on our toes and off balance, but we just kind of kept with the grind to work back into rhythm. And in the fifth set we just kind of took over.”
McMahon had 18 kills and 15 digs, and played a key role in a comeback win in the first set when the Challengers got a sideout down 23-20 and McMahon served for the final five points, including a set-winning ace.
Kaylee Cannon added nine kills, 13 digs and two aces, while Gabbi Burton contributed six kills and steady play at the net in her middle blocker role. Taylor Cave contributed 35 assists and 12 digs at setter.
THURSTON 3, ASHLAND 0: At Ashland, after seemingly gaining momentum with two straight wins, Ashland came up short in its Midwestern League finale.
Thurston cruised in straight sets, 25-15, 25-21, 25-16, to drop the Grizzlies to 7-13 overall and 6-10 in league play.
The Colts moved to 14-6 and 12-4.