Emme Whitson of Creswell goes up for one of her game-high 21 kills against Sutherlin at the 3A state volleyball tournament. PHOTO: Luke Whitson

When Creswell lost 33-31 to Sutherlin in the opening set of the 3A state volleyball tournament, it was a sign of things to come for the Bulldogs, who played well in both matches over the weekend but left Corvallis with a double dose of disheartening defeats.

“We went five sets with both teams, and both matches could have gone either way,” said Creswell coach Anna Baltrusch, who has made going to state virtually an annual trip for the Bulldogs. 

“I’ve never seen a state set go that high. … we had a JV game that was 39-37 this year. … Some of the kids said they were exhausted after so many long points. And afterwards, people told us our match was the best match of the whole tournament.” Sutherlin won, 33-31, 19-25, 25-16, 18-25, 15-8. 

Creswell's Kendyl Whitson goes up for a bock against Sutherlin's Kaybie Rutledge. Photo: Luke Whitson

Sutherlin wound up losing to Burns in the championship game, 17-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-9. Burns had advanced with a 25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17 victory over Catlin Gabel.

In the consolation final, Creswell was unable to hold its lead as Catlin Gabel won a 25-10, 24-26, 20-25, 25-14, 15-13.

“We were up 2-1 in sets, then up 7-2 in the fifth, but they came back and beat us,” Baltrusch said. “At this level every team has strong players and big hitters. 

Creswell gets ready to break from a timeout during their five-set loss to Sutherlin. Photo: Luke Whitson

“Emme (Whitson) is our best hitter but we don’t have many hitters on our team. We have strong players and good athletes who get along and rarely ever bark at each other. Next year should be a good year as well, as we have a bunch of multi-talented girls who can play multiple positions.”

Whitson demonstrated her versatility with a game-high 21 kills against Sutherlin along with 15 digs. Lauren Bailey had 21 digs. Kimberlee Kelsey contributed 38 assists while Lizabelle Osborn added 8 kills and 3 aces. Kendyl Whitson had 4 aces and Kyla Ellis had 5 stuff blocks. 

Senior captain Emme Whitson, center, leads the celebration after the Bulldogs won a point. Photo: Luke Whitson

Against Catlin Gabel, Emme Whitson – she’s a senior – again led the way with 14 digs, 17 kills and 3 aces. Younger sister Kendyl, a junior, pitched in with 4 aces and 4 kills. Ellis had 4 blocks and 7 kills, and Kelsey racked up 29 assists. 

“Everybody but Emme had not played in a state tournament before,” Baltrusch said. “It’s pretty cool that they’ll know what to expect next year.”

Team photo. Photo: Luke Whitson