West Linn volleyball powers past Clackamas to win state berth
West Linn wasn't going to let this one get away.
Not this way or that way or any way.
The fourth-ranked Lions, hosting No. 13 Clackamas at West Linn High School in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Saturday, dropped the first set to the Cavaliers and got pushed the rest of the night before ultimately pulling away to win 23-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-15.
"(Getting back to state) was a huge goal of ours and we didn't want to end this season on a loss on our home court," said West Linn senior libero Ellie Snook, the two-time Three Rivers League Player of the Year. "We are going to go out fighting."
"We had to come in here and play our game and that's what we did," added West Linn sophomore middle blocker Makayla Long. "I'm so happy we made it back (to state). We worked our (tails) off to get there."
With the win — the Lions' sixth straight — West Linn improved to 20-5 overall after winning the TRL at 14-0. Next up, the Lions will return to the Class 6A state tournament where they finished third a year ago; West Linn will face No. 12 Sheldon — the Southwest Conference champion — in the quarterfinals at 1:15 p.m. Friday at Liberty High School.
The 13th-ranked Cavaliers, meanwhile, ended their season at 18-5 after going 11-3 and placing third in the Mt. Hood Conference.
"The first set was better than the last three," said setter Jerionna Caston, one of five seniors on the Cavaliers' roster. "We had a lot of energy and we came out strong. We just didn't push through the last three."
"Tonight, we struggled a little bit mentally, but we really have had a lot of good chemistry on the team, on and off the court especially, so that's just really been good," added senior middle blocker Grace Fonville.
In the night's first set, talented Clackamas — getting big contributions from Caston, Fonville, senior middle blocker Kalani Hayes, sophomore libero/defensive specialist Christin Kwon, and junior outside hitters Jaiden Armitage, Jayla Parnell and Jaiden Eubanks — fought off a tough West Linn challenge to win 25-23 and knock the Lions back on their heels.
"The first set was exactly how we wanted to play," Fonville said. "We came out there strong, mentally tough, and we bounced back from any errors we made and that's exactly how we wanted to start."
West Linn sophomore outside hitter Audra Wilmes admitted to some nerves after the loss, but knew what the Lions needed to do to turn thigs around.
"We just really had to focus on our serves and our serve-receive because that's kind of where we stumbled, so that's where we had to focus and go all out," she said.
Clackamas kept the pressure on in the second set, too, leading 18-17 before the Lions closed the set on an 8-2 run highlighted by five Long kills, the last of those from the right side set by sophomore Kate Griffin to make it 25-20 and tie the match at 1-1.
The Lions started faster in the third set and led by as many as six points, the last time at 17-11 when Long notched a kill down the line from the right side. But the Cavaliers fought back from there, closing within 24-22 on two Armitage kills and an ace, two blocks by Hayes and a tip from junior Isabelle Combs before West Linn edged away to win 25-22.
In the night's fourth set, the Cavaliers strung together three straight points — a kill by Hayes and back-to-back tips by Caston — to close within 16-12. But the Lions held the upper hand down the stretch, ending the match on a 9-3 run that included a kill and an ace from Wilmes, a kill and a stuff block from senior Erika Isaacson, an ace by senior Hannah Hashbarger and a block from Long.
"We just came in with a dig or die attitude," Long said. "We wanted to push our limits and we knew we could and look where it got us. It got us the win so I'm super excited."
Oct. 24: The Lions opened the state playoffs with a 25-6, 25-16, 25-14 sweep of No. 29 Grants Pass on Oct. 24. The Lady Cavers ended their season at 11-18 after placing fifth in the Southwest Conference.