The Pleasant Hill Billies volleyball team has had the Creswell Bulldogs’ number this season, sweeping the Bulldogs in both of the matches they’ve played. As both teams advanced last Saturday night, they’ll face off in the quarterfinals early Friday morning for a third and final time.
“We don’t just play against each other, we play with each other. The kids all play club with each other, Piper – number 12 for my team – plays with (Anna Crawford) on their team,” Creswell head coach Anna Baltrusch said. “There’s a bunch of other kids on their team that play with my kids for club. So they play with each other all the time, making it more intense when they play against each other.”
The second-seeded Billies were the first team to advance on Saturday, sweeping No. 18 Lakeview. The playoff atmosphere is nothing new to head coach Jessica Crawford, who’s made the postseason as a player and coach at Pleasant Hill, but that doesn’t change the feeling of winning a game on your home court.
“We were just excited to have the match, and the girls were pumped to play. It’s always nice to have a home match, so it was good to be able to host that,” Crawford said. “Our team was ready, and prepared to have a good match, and they came and played well.”
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs also swept their opponent on Saturday night, defeating No. 10 Dayton 25-13, 25-14, 25-23. The final set of the match was the closest, with the teams going back and forth the entire way before Creswell came out on top to clinch the sweep.
“That was the last set, and it’s really hard to finish a team off. They have a lot of experience on that team; we had some great rallies back and forth which was lots of fun,” Baltrusch said. “They weren’t gonna go down without a fight.”
This marks the fifth-straight appearance in the quarterfinals for the Bulldogs – not counting the 2020 season where there was no tournament. A big accomplishment for coach Baltrusch, but the team’s focus right now is all about unity.
“This team has been working a lot on their unity. It has been their focus and they’ve worked on it every day, talking about it before practice and after,” Baltrusch said. “They all want to put their teammates ahead of themselves, and that’s what you have to have – kids that don’t bark at each other, but kids that encourage each other.”
Despite losing their last two games to the Billies in sweeps, the Bulldogs look forward to their game against Pleasant Hill with a lot of optimism.
“The kids feel like we should beat them,” Baltrusch said. “We have strong hitters across the net even when we rotate, so third time might be the charm.”
Going into their quarterfinals match on Friday, the teams recognize that this rivalry isn’t as bitter as one may think, and view it more as a family rivalry.
“You don’t want to take away from the importance of it, but we’re very respectful of each other. I hold Anna in high regard. I wish a lot of good things for a lot of good athletes at Creswell. It is a special opportunity to coach the ‘rivalry’ in a different way,” Crawford said. “A lot of them after matches, or before matches, are giving fist bumps and saying, ‘Hey, it’s good to see you.’ Of course each team wants to win, but at the same time, they genuinely have affection for each other.”
No. 2 Pleasant Hill and No. 7 Creswell face off in the state quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. at Springfield High School. The winner of the match advances to the semifinals to play the winner of No. 6 Santiam Christian vs. No. 3 Cascade Christian. The semifinals are slated for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, with the state championship on Saturday at 6 p.m.
To view the full Class 3A volleyball bracket, visit: osaa.org/activities/vbl/brackets?div=3A
Second round top performers:
Creswell: Kimberlee Kelsey, 27 assists, 5 kills; Lizabelle Osborn, 15 kills, 11 digs, 3 aces.
Pleasant Hill: Ruby Jackson, 10 kills; Cheyenne Green, 9 kills, 13 digs; Emily Krauss, 18 digs and 2 aces