Editor’s note: This story is part of The Chronicle’s 2023 fall sports preview special section. To see the full issue, grab a copy of the August 31 edition at any local Dari Mart today, or give us a call at our office: 541-515-6233.
CRESWELL – Anna Baltrusch thinks she has a state-title contender on her hands, and she’ll have a better gauge after the first few matches of the year.
The longtime Creswell volleyball coach returns seven seniors, including three who earned all-conference honors last year, while adding three talented freshmen.
“I am excited for the future, but I am excited for this year,” Baltrusch said. “If they do what they have shown that they can do at times, we can beat anybody.”
Creswell placed third in the Mountain Valley Conference last year before reaching the Class 3A state tournament. Outside hitter Lizabelle Osborn, libero Ashelyn Sharkey, and setter Kimberlee Kelsey all return as seniors after earning all-conference honors last season.
Middle blocker Kyla Ellis is a three-year starter while right side Hope Ukolov and middle blocker Lexie Smith also return as seniors. Leaghanna Sharp, a competitive Tae Kwon Do champion, moves up to varsity this year.
“The thing with our senior leadership is that it is not just one of them, they lead as a group,” Baltrusch said. “They play all different positions.”
Junior Sydney Brink returns to varsity while Piper Hanson, Emma Cross, and Anna Davis made the roster as freshmen. Hanson, who is Baltrusch’s granddaughter, is ranked as one of the top freshmen in the state.
“She’s not going to leave the court,” Baltusch said.
Creswell went 18-8 last year, including a 9-3 conference record to finish behind Sisters and Pleasant Hill.
“In our league, Sisters is really good and Pleasant Hill is really good so we will have strong competition,” Baltrusch said. “That will not let us get lackadaisical when we get to league games.”
The challenging schedule started right away as the Bulldogs opened the season against defending PacWest Conference champion Santiam Christian in the Cascade Christian tournament on Saturday, Aug. 26. Pleasant Hill, Vale, Westside Christian and St. Mary’s were among the other top teams in the field.
“It’s going to be a tell-all type of tournament to begin the season,” Baltrusch said. “We are getting into the fire from the get-go.”
The Bulldogs warmed up for the season by attending a 24-team camp in Bend, facing teams including Sisters, Bend, Churchill, Marist, and Pleasant Hill.
“We played a lot of big teams, we beat some of them and lost to some, but we beat everyone we played at least once,” Baltrusch said. “There were some really good teams there so I was impressed with what we were able to do there. We have to keep them together as a team. These kids can go as far as they want to go, it was exciting to watch them at camp. They struggled and had some rough days, then turned around and became All-Stars too. They know why they struggled and how to get out of those situations. When we are not communicating, we struggle, and when we communicate well, we are hard to beat. I am excited about this year.”
Creswell opens league play at home against Harrisburg on Sept. 5 before a tough four-game road trip that includes visits to Pleasant Hill, Santiam Christian, and Sisters.