Creswell players hug and support each other after losing in the state volleyball tournament Saturday, Nov. 9. Photo provided/David Leavitt


'It was our goal for the season to get to the state championship game, and it was a bummer not winning, but I was really proud of us for coming that far, and we had a lot of fun together.' Breanna Dapron
FOREST GROVE - On a team that often breaks its huddles by chanting ”Family,” the Creswell High School girls' volleyball players were in tears following their state championship loss to Santiam Christian on Saturday, ”not because they lost but because they don't get to play together anymore,” said Coach Anna Baltrusch.
The postgame scene this past weekend included plenty of emotion and hugs after the third-ranked Bulldogs lost their fourth 3A volleyball state championship game in six years, swept by top-ranked Santiam Christian (23-25, 14-25, 19-25).
”You know, Santiam Christian's just a really good team,” Baltrusch said. ”They were the defending state champions; they went to 6A/5A tournaments and beat everyone; they went undefeated and only lost two sets to us, two to Salem Academy, one to Cascade Christian, one to La Salle – and they're 5A – and one to Lakeridge – who's 6A – all season.”
The title match proved a serve receive and outside hitting battle, with Creswell's Breanna Dapron facing off across the net with SC's powerful duo of Kassie Staton and Emily Bourne.
The first set was tied 23-23 before SC scored the final two points. Creswell opened set two with 3-0, 4-2 and 7-5 leads, but a 10-0 Eagles run, powered by Bourne – SC's Player of the Match and First Team All-Tournament selection – left the Dawgs in the dust.
Dapron – Creswell's own Player of the Match and First Team All-Tournament selection – led a Bulldog assault in the third set, but it proved too little, too late.
”She was a warrior out there,” Baltrusch said of Dapron, who finished with 26 kills to Bourne's 20. ”She battled as hard as she could, and she had some great teammates to help her.”
The Eagles' sweep to their repeat title capped a perfect season: the state's only undefeated team dropped just seven sets in going 8-0 in league and 30-0 overall.
The Lady Dawgs were no slouch themselves, toggling between first and third in state rankings much of the season and posting a 24-10 overall record.
”I was just super excited to be back in the state championship game, and really excited for the kids to have the experience,” Baltrusch said. ”We prepared for it; the way we'd been playing I knew there was a really good chance, because we'd beaten all the other teams there, or they'd lost to teams we'd beaten. We definitely were the second-best team at state.”
In getting to the title game, Creswell beat sixth-ranked Burns 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 25-16) in their Friday morning quarterfinals match, and edged second-ranked Salem Academy 3-2 (22-25, 25-17, 19-25, 25-14, 15-10) in Friday night's semifinals.
The Burns match ”was a game of tough serving; Breanna was a much better attacker, but it was whoever survived the tough serving that was going to win,” Baltrusch said. ”There were lots of errors forced by the other team too, and we were always getting each other out of system and battling it out. It was hard to get that pass-set-hit.”
Dapron pounded 29 kills. ”She had nine kills in a row and pretty much single-handedly won the third set,” Baltrusch said.
After dropping its first set to Salem Academy, Creswell built a big lead in the second before the Crusaders began setting their big outside hitter, Chloe Baker – another First Team All-Tournament selection – and climbed back into it.
”She's showy when 'on,' and almost impossible to stop,” Baltrusch said of Baker. But, riding the momentum of their decisive fourth-set victory, the Dawgs – boosted by Dapron's 25 kills – held on to win the match, which began at 8:30 p.m. and didn't end until 10:35, and the entire gym had emptied around the two teams.
And their cheering sections.
”The student sections were the highlight of that game,” Baltrusch said. ”We had our student section there and they had their student section, and they were doing really loud cheers back and forth, and the whole atmosphere just made for a really fun night of volleyball.”
And fun is something she wants for her players at state – win or lose. A seasoned coach, Baltrusch knows state's a special, sometimes once-in-a-lifetime experience for student-athletes, and she wants them to enjoy it.
”I've been to state so many times, and I take my experience with me; there's lots of stuff that goes on – like having just five-minute warmups before starting a game – that you get comfortable with, having experience being there, and we practice for stuff like that,” Baltrusch said. ”But I always try to remember that this is a new experience for this group of kids, and I want them to have a good time.”
And they did.
”It was our goal for the season to get to the state championship game, and it was a bummer not winning, but I was really proud of us for coming that far, and we had a lot of fun together,” Dapron said. ”At the house we rented we were all laughing and dancing, so comfortable with each other, just hanging out with our 'second family' and enjoying the memories we've made.”
Now, with their ”memorable” 2019 season over, Baltrusch, like any coach, is looking both back and ahead.
”I'm going to miss this group of girls, but I'm also looking forward to next year,” she said. ”I've got tons of good (players) returning and coming up, and the incoming freshmen are a 'Holy cow!' group of kids.”
So, might the 2020 team, led by returning power hitter Dapron, prove the magic combination that wins Creswell's first volleyball state championship?
It's a question of little import to Baltrusch.
”I've never coached to win a state championship,” Baltrusch said. ”I've always coached to help kids love the game, build relationships and become strong young women. Some of the strongest women I know are my former players; they're all successful women, and I'm feeling really good about the group of girls I coached this year and the ones I'll have next year.”