PLEASANT HILL – The No. 2 Pleasant Hill Billies volleyball team swept rival No. 6 Creswell last Thursday, extending their win streak in the Class 3A rivalry to three. While a three-match win streak over a rival might not seem like much, it’s quite an accomplishment given the recent history between the teams.
Since 2013 – the furthest back match results go on the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) website – Creswell leads the series 20-3. That includes 8-3 since Pleasant Hill coach Jessica Crawford took over in 2018. In the past decade, Pleasant Hill has bested Creswell in official OSAA play only three times, and it’s the past three times the team’s have played.
“I think it provides a lot of optimism and confidence in the fact that it just reinforces what we can be. And truthfully, that wasn’t the cleanest match. So some of that is really encouraging because we know we can clean things up and we can be more efficient,” Crawford said. “It really is a confidence builder. And I’m just happy. I mean, some of those kids have been working toward that level of accomplishment. They’re coming into their own, and I’m happy for them.”
Pleasant Hill started the match with a 9-2 run, grabbing momentum and finishing it off 25-18 on a kill by junior Ruby Jackson, one of eight she had on the evening. It was a start that gave the Billies the confidence to control the pace of the game, something they planned on doing.
“We’ve played Creswell with a similar personnel for a couple years. So we had some strategy and some gameplan coming in. That said, a lot of our strategy and gameplan is consistent, regardless of opponent,” Crawford said. “We’re going to set our own tone, our pace of the game, serve tough, and we’ve just really become cohesive. We’ve been working on winning long rallies, which we did, and it’s very rewarding,”
Creswell started hot in the second set thanks to freshman Piper Hanson, leading 8-5 early on. The Billies took over though, winning 16 of the next 19 points to take a 21-11 lead. Billies junior Cheyenne Green contributed key points in the second set, including the set-securing kill to win the set 25-17.
Green is one of the top returners in the state after recording 479 kills last season. In the win over Creswell, Green had 16 digs, 13 kills and 5 aces. Despite the great performance, the Billies have been working on relying on Green less.
“Honestly, we’re still learning. It’s one of those things that when you have someone like Cheyenne, the automatic thought for the opponent, and sometimes for us, is to go to that. But we really have been focusing on building our team,” Crawford said. “For us to be effective long term, we know that’s where we need to advance, so we’re working on it. We talk about distribution, and we talk about the fact that sometimes it’s not whether it’s the bounce kill, it’s about diversifying our offense and still getting a kill that may not be as pretty, but still wins the point.”
Relying less on Green allows the team to be more creative and less predictable. It also opens up setter Claire Crawford, who had 24 assists on the night.
Heading into the third set, a sweep over Creswell seemed imminent. Especially after Pleasant Hill took a 20-8 lead in the final set. The Bulldogs clawed their way back though, pulling within two. The Billies won the final 3 points though, all Green kills, clinching the sweep.
It was a sigh of relief for Crawford. There were times last season when a less-experienced Pleasant Hill would crumble after losing momentum in a set. Despite allowing Creswell back into the set, Pleasant Hill stayed resilient.
“Yeah, the coaches and I, we might have reminisced about that exact topic. The nice part of that is it shows maturity in some of those key players that we have, to be patient and trust each other, and know that we’re going to come through,” Crawford said. “We just have to go back to those principles … we work a lot on earning points, so we just go back to those principles. We’re earning this next point, forget that last mistake and focus on the next point.”
Staying focused on the next point will be key in the coming week as well. Pleasant Hill hosts No. 1 Sisters this Thursday, a matchup between top-five teams in Class 3A. Last season the two teams split the conference matchups, with both home teams winning. While Crawford likes the way her team played, she knows they need to be better to compete with Sisters.
“We had some strings of errors, which is never good in any sport, especially volleyball. And then we just had some uncharacteristic errors that deflated us, and we can learn from,” Crawford said. “We’re gonna probably work on some consistency and try to really reinforce that balance. Especially against Sisters, when you face that fast offense with big hitters, we have to be able to come back with something that’s not as predictable either. We’re gonna have to work on it, but it’s going to be a great match.”
PHHS: Cheyenne Green 16 digs, 13 kills, 5 aces; Claire Crawford 24 assists, 7 digs, 3 aces; Emily Krauss 18 digs, 2 aces; Ruby Jackson and Anna Crawford 8 kills each.
CHS: Lizabelle Osborn 8 kills, 9 digs; Kimberlee Kelsey 4 kills, 8 assists; Piper Hanson 5 kills.