SPRINGFIELD – The Pleasant Hill Billies volleyball team is making the most of its first state appearance since 1995, sweeping both No. 7 Creswell and No. 6 Santiam Christian on Friday at Springfield High School to advance to the state title on Saturday night.
“Our poise was really, really impressive. I mean, they were in it every set, consistently. That balance of confidence, yet willing to earn points; it was really, really impressive,” said Pleasant Hill coach Jessica Crawford. “Probably the best balance we’ve had consistently over matches, and back-to-back matches. Just really, really impressive.”
Pleasant Hill and Creswell faced off for the third time this season in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m., and the Billies swept the Bulldogs for the third time, winning 25-17, 25-16, and 25-21.
The Billies returned at 6:30 p.m. to face off with No. 6 Santiam Christian in the semifinals, who upset No. 3 Cascade Christian 3-2 in its quarterfinal match. Much like the Creswell match, Pleasant Hill took control early and never looked back, sweeping Santiam Christian 25-10, 25-18, and 25-18.
“I’m just so happy for these kids. They’ve worked really hard, and believed in each other, and in themselves. And it means a lot that they earned it,” Crawford said. “These were fantastic matches today. Really, really good matches. And they’ve earned it, which is fantastic.”
While Pleasant Hill was celebrating its semifinal win, No. 1 Sisters and defending champion No. 5 Valley Catholic were in a fight for the other finals spot. No. 1 Sisters fell down 2 sets to 0, but saved multiple match points to claw its way back and grab a 3-2 win, setting up an all-Mountain Valley Conference final.
Sisters beat Pleasant Hill 3-1 in both matchups this season, but a Pleasant Hill squad that has almost as many underclassmen as it does upperclassmen has been growing all season.
“Our team’s totally grown. We were talking about it as coaches, that we were still learning in this last week, which is nice that no one settled and felt like we had hit a level that we weren’t ready to pursue more,” Crawford said. “We have become more balanced, especially honestly, in our blocking. And so that’s really elevated our defense. We’ve just had to shake some things out in that regard to make sure that we’re keeping pace with all of those developments, so I’m really proud of them.”
The state championships for volleyball is a whirlwind of a weekend. For teams that make the finals, it’s three huge matches over the span of 36 hours culminating in one champion being crowned. Pleasant Hill is prepared for the heavyweight fight.
“We’ve played in some good tournaments (this season). We’ve been preparing for big matches with good opponents all season,” Crawford said. “We are just going to try to translate that into tomorrow.”
No. 1 Sisters and No. 2 Pleasant Hill clash on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Springfield High School’s gymnasium.