The stage was set for a quarterfinal volleyball showdown between rivals Creswell and Pleasant Hill. That is, until Siuslaw got in the way. The No. 15 Vikings upset No. 2 Pleasant Hill in a five-setter on Saturday, eliminating the Billies and ending their 14-game win streak. Seventh-ranked Creswell then hosted No. 10 Coquille and the veteran squad took care of business, winning 3-1 and advancing to the Elite Eight on Friday at Springfield High School, where the Bulldogs face Siuslaw.
“We played a good match, they played a great match. And we just had too many lulls,” said Jessica Crawford, Pleasant Hill head coach. “I guess the good part is that we’re young enough to learn from it. I mean, you’re trying to look for a silver lining as a coach, and making sure that it’s a teachable moment … We just didn’t come through when we needed to. And they brought their game.”
A young Billies team wasn’t on many people’s radar coming into the year, but a 14-game win streak that saw them beat Creswell twice and upset the top-ranked Sisters Outlaws meant they were on everyone’s radar.
“We kind of came into the season as a sleeper. I mean, I don’t think people understood the amount of work that, especially that sophomore group, did in the offseason,” Crawford said. “They were ready to come and play. And they did. And every one of the players on our team improved … I really do believe that. As individuals and a group, they really did improve.”
Ultimately, a more experienced Siuslaw team proved too much. The Vikings have 10 upperclassmen on the roster, many of whom contributed to the team’s 4A quarterfinal run last year. The good news for the Billies is that they return most of their key players next year, and Crawford said this loss will help motivate those players.
“I think they were motivated. And I think that this is a really big glimpse into what could be. and now they want it,” she said. “So hopefully, we’re willing to do the work necessary in the meantime to get there. And I think their goals will be higher in the future.”
Creswell avoided the Billies’ fate. The Bulldogs started out hot in the first set, but Coquille came back from a 21-16 deficit to take the first set 25-23. It was all Creswell after that though, and the Bulldogs rattled off three straight sets to once again reach the quarterfinals.
“They were a tough team to play, because they didn’t have one setter, they all set. So they had like three or four different people setting over there,” said Anna Baltrusch, Creswell head coach. “It was a battle. And it was a battle of a lot of weird plays. Whoever could play the scrappiest at times was the team that won.”
Creswell is 3-0 against Siuslaw this year, but Baltrusch knows firsthand that in the playoffs, anything can happen.
“This is the postseason. And you know, I’ve been in the postseason 20-some times. So I know what happens,” she said. “You can win the first two sets and lose the rest of them, I’ve done that before … You just never know who’s gonna step up and who’s gonna crack.”
Creswell and Siuslaw will face off at Springfield HS at 3:15 p.m., with the winner playing again in the semifinals at 8:30.
Billies top performers: Cheyenne Green 29 kills, 7 blocks (2 solo) and 21 digs; Claire Crawford 3 aces, 39 assists and 14 digs.
Bulldogs top performers: Lizabelle Osborn 17 kills and 14 digs, Kimberlee Kelsey with 38 assists and 3 blocks.