CRESWELL – Creswell players were diving all over the court Saturday. During one point, four players all dived for the same ball, indicative of the way the Bulldogs played from the get-go, as they rolled to a 25-20, 25-18, 25-22 victory over Vale in the opening round of the state Class 3A volleyball playoffs.
Of course, the Bulldogs know from practicing with coach Anna Baltrusch, there are repercussions for not hustling or diving for a ball.
“They’re volleyball players, that’s what they’re out here to do,” said Baltrusch, who has been Creswell’s head coach since 1996, with a one-year hiatus in 2003. “We emphasize, if the ball hits the floor, a body hits the floor. It’s that simple. And most girls are happy to do that instead of having to do a bunch of extra push-ups, sit-ups or squats.”
With the victory, the Bulldogs, who are seeded fourth, advanced to face No. 12 seed Oregon Episcopal in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at home, 6 p.m. The game was in progress at press time.
If Creswell wins that game, it will play two more games – on Friday and Saturday – in Corvallis. Friday’s game would be at 1:30 against the Sutherlin-Cascade Christian winner. The Bulldogs would then play in either the championship game or the consolation final on Saturday.
Top-seeded Santiam Christian, playing without its injured setter, was shocked by 16th-seeded Cascade Christian, making the chase more wide open.
Going to state is not a new drill for Baltrusch – this is the 12th time since 2006 that Creswell has advanced. And she likes her team’s chances to keep it going.
“Oregon Episcopal has a bunch of young, scrappy players, and they like to play a lot of long rallies,” Baltrusch said. “But we’re used to playing long rallies and our kids have been playing so well, I’m just excited to see how we do.”
Against Vale, it was a couple of sophomores who sparked the straight-set rout. Setter Kimmy Kelsey racked up 4 aces and 32 assists, while Lizabelle Osborn recorded 14 kills. Senior Emme Whitson had 12 kills and 5 digs while sophomore Lauren Bailey added a pair of blocks.
“I’m so proud of the way we played,” Baltrusch said. “Except for Emme, who’s our top player, this was the first state playoff game for all of our girls, and we only missed three serves.”
Regardless of how it places this year, it’s clear that Creswell counts on being the Big Dog in future state volleyball races as well.
“Next year should be a fun year as well. These girls really amaze me – sometimes I’m not sure if they can do something, so I just sit back and let them do it,” Baltrusch said. “The kids ask if they can stay after practice almost every day because they love volleyball so much.”
Creswell’s fans can certainly dig that.