HILLSBORO — A five-set match was what it took for the Dallas Dragons to move onto the semifinals after a 3-2 defeat against the Wilsonville Wildcats Friday morning at the 5A state championships at Liberty High School.
The Dragons (18-7 overall, 12-4 Mid-Willamette Conference) suffered losses in the first two matches, 25-20 and 25-17, respectively.
“It was a rough morning, I guess,” Hailey Van Well said.
But the girls refused to let those losses determine the morning’s outcome.
“We came back and decided, ‘it’s go time’...” Van Well said.
Going into the third set, the Dragons’ determination to hang on a little longer was evident as they held the Wildcats (19-3 overall, 14-0 Northwest Oregon Conference) off in a 10-point differential for most of the set, and demolished them 25-10 for a victory.
It was a battle in the fourth set, with both teams rallying and trading points throughout and coming up in multiple draws until a Wildcat error put the Dragons ahead 26-24.
“That was the playoff game, towards the end,” Van Well said, laughing.
In the second longest game of their season, the Dragons entered the fifth and final set, entering into another round of rallies and trading places with the Wildcats.
As the game was knotted 12-12, the apprehension in the gym was palpable. But the Dragons weren’t ready to give up and only allowed the Wildcats a shot at one more point before they capitalized on their first quarterfinals triumph by winning the match, 15-13.
“To be able to be in it was super awesome, and to be mentally and physically stronger, that was awesome,” Van Well said. “I think our energy was really good towards the end. And after every ball we’d get, it would just keep building and building and it ended up great.”
Van Well led with 21 kills and had 15 digs, while Maya Davison added 22 digs. Emma Classen had 32 assists and Maggie Blair contributed eight kills and 16 digs, and Taylor Williamson and Ruby Earhart had four blocks.
Last year, the Dragons made it to the state championships but lost 3-0 in the first round to Bend.
This year is different, and the hard work they’ve put in as a team is clear.
“The Wilsonville match was amazing,” said head coach Kayce Lilly. “It was so fun to see the girls fight to come back and play with so much heart for each other.”
Friday evening, after a few hours of food and rest, the Dragons faced the Corvallis Spartans (24-2 overall, 16-0 MWC) in the semifinals round and suffered a 3-0 loss.
“I don’t know what happened. I think we just kind of ... I don’t honestly know,” Van Well said. “We know we can do better. We played down instead of playing up to their level, which we can.”
The first set saw a score of 25-14.
Opening the second set, the Dragons got on board after a lengthy rally ended with an error from the Spartans, and from there they hung on through a 25-20 loss.
“It’s hard to play two out of our three matches at state against teams from our own league,” Lilly said, “but it also shows how tough our league is.”
Facing the undefeated team for the third set, the Dragons rallied and battled for a win but fell short, 25-15.
Throughout the contest, Van Well and Blair both nabbed 11 digs, and had eight and nine kills, respectively. Classen came out with 20 assists, and Williamson ended the game with nine digs and two blocks.
Despite the loss, Van Well said they’re going to fight hard in the final consolation round against West Albany (23-5 overall, 14-2 Mid-Willamette Conference). We have nothing to lose, she said.
Fighting hard for their final game of the season, the Dragons couldn’t match the No. 2 ranked team’s energy and lost 3-0.
“Leaving state with a fifth-place trophy, two kids on the all-tournament team and the sportsmanship award...I just couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” Lilly said. “We talked a lot about loving each other and being selfless in our actions this season, and it was evident by the way they played that the girls really bought in to that. I love these girls and couldn’t have asked for anymore from them. Definitely a season to remember.”