Marist Catholic freshman Kimmy Spurlock (5) celebrates in the foreground while Giana Elgarico elevates for a hug
Marist Catholic freshman Kimmy Spurlock (5) celebrates in the foreground while Giana Elgarico elevates for a hug

SPRINGFIELD -- Marist Catholic scored the final three points in overtime in Game 5 to win a riveting 4A final Saturday night over defending champion Marshfield at the 2023 OSAA /OnPoint Community Credit Union State Volleyball Championships conducted at Springfield High School in Springfield.

The match lasted well over two hours and was hotly contested from start to finish, with 34 ties and 21 lead changes. No set was tighter than the fifth, which saw the lead switch sides eight times in the race to be first to 15 points.

Marist Catholic, which won a similar match at home in September when the Sky Em League rivals met for the first time this season, got the first crack at claiming the blue trophy when junior OH Giana Elgarico slammed her 28th kill of the match through the Marshfield block to give the Spartans their first match point at 14-13. A heads up dig from freshman RS Kimmy Spurlock and a sweet set up from freshman setter Lauren Rohman made the point possible.

Marshfield responded, as it did so many times in this set and throughout the match, to turn things around quickly. Facing defeat, the Pirates called on senior RS Bridget Gould and the University of Oregon recruit delivered, not with her signature lefty smash, but by adjusting to an imperfect set with a righty tip over the block to the sideline. A Marist Catholic swing on the next point sailed wide, and it was Marshfield now one point away from a glorious repeat.

“I don’t think there’s another sport that’s like volleyball with the back and forth like that,” said Marshfield coach Tammie Montiel. “The momentum of a game can shift in a second and then can shift right back again.”

“It’s kind of a roller coaster but as a coach you have to stay steady,” observed Marist Catholic coach Shari Pimental. “You don’t want your kids seeing what you’re feeling inside. ‘Take a breath. Here we go! Next ball!’”

Avia Tuguldur, a senior outside hitter for the Spartans, had the first crack at tying the match. Her back row swing had enough pace that it created a moment of indecision for Marshfield. Does the defense try to dig it up or see if it will sail long? A Pirate ultimately tried to play the ball but it was too hot to handle and resulted in the eighth tie score of the set.

The next point was the point of the match and what Tuguldur called “the best moment of my volleyball career.”

The entire crowd of well over 1,500 knew that Marshfield was going to go to Gould, who’d already had 27 kills and was the best option for the Pirates in this rotation. Marist Catholic knew it, too, but the Spartans had not been successful in stopping the rocket-armed senior. This time, Tuguldur vowed to be ready, to get at least a touch to help Marist Catholic’s besieged back row.

She did better than “at least a touch.”

“I knew my libero and my team were counting on me,” Tuguldur recalled. “That was my moment. I felt like I was up there on time. I read it and I pressed over.”


The stuff block was so unexpected but so apropos in this set, where momentum was fleeting and a team’s fortunes could change so quickly. Marshfield had the swing it wanted to regain the lead. This time, however, the block was better.

With the lead once more, Marist Catholic looked to close out the championship on the next serve. Elgarico put some pace on it and sent it deep towards the back line. The pressure to make a perfect pass was too great. The ball was mishandled. The whistle blew for two contacts.

Was it really over? The massive Marist Catholic student section rushing the court to envelop the players told you everything you needed to know.

“We had our ups and downs, but in the state tournament you have to outlast teams,” Pimental said. “I feel like we did that all weekend.”


Two hours and twenty minutes earlier, when the teams lined up before first serve, Marshfield was the clear favorite to defend its crown. Yes, the Pirates lost to Marist Catholic on the road in September, but they also blew out the Spartans at home the next time they played, 25-7, 25-18, 25-7. And they’d swept Marist Catholic three times the year before on their way to the school’s first volleyball state title.  And they had virtually their entire team back. And they had won quarterfinal and semifinal matches without dropping a set.

But Marshfield also had everything to lose. It’s tough to be the hunted.

“It’s hard to defend that title,” Montiel said. “You always have a target on your back.”

“It's hard; I’ve been there,” said Pimental, whose team won back-to-back in 1998 and 1999. “It’s the hardest thing you can ever do to defend a championship.”

Marist Catholic did not look like it would be the team to challenge Marshfield for state supremacy when the tournament began. The Spartans dropped the first two sets in a quarterfinal Friday afternoon to Crook County, the team that eliminated it from the playoffs short of the state tournament last year. Marist Catholic came all the way back to win, only to drop the first set of the next match to Mazama. The Spartans rallied to win that match in four, thanks to comebacks from seven-point deficits in the final two sets; and were determined to play their best ball in the final against a familiar foe.

Marist Catholic started quickly, racing to a 5-1 lead in the first set on the strength of two dumps from Rohman, a freshman Pimental called “the best setter in the state at this level,” and an ace serve from sophomore libero Kegan De Lee.

The Spartans played loose and with high energy.

“We have fun,” Pimental said. “If our kids aren’t dancing or laughing…we as a coaching staff decided we were going to step back and let them do what they’re going to do. It’s been them all year. If they’re not goofing around then they’re not playing loose.”

Marshfield regained its composure and used four Gould kills as part of an 8-1 run to seize control. The Pirates did not trail again in the set and led by as many as 11, 19-8, on a “give and go” kill from Tatum Montiel, one of four she had in the set.

Marshfield won the set, 25-19, on a Marist Catholic service error, but the Pirate coaching staff sensed that all was not well with the team. The defending champs had limped to the finish of that first set and had given Marist Catholic reason to be optimistic going into the second. Marshfield’s coaches implored the players to keep their energy up.

Marist Catholic started quickly in the second set and built a 12-4 lead on a kill from Spurlock, a freshman who was a catalyst in the Spartans’ September win over Marshfield. It took a while, but Marshfield clawed its way back into the set and actually took the lead, 21-20, after two brilliant, boring serves from junior setter Ava Ainsworth, the second of which was an ace.

But just when you though Marshfield was going to close out the set to take control of the match, back came Marist Catholic. Junior middle Avy Roundy, at 6-1 the tallest player on the court, scored over the smaller block to knot the score at 21-21; then doubled up with a successful slide to put the Spartans back on top once more. A nice dig from Paige MacDuff led to Gould’s tying roll shot, but Marist Catholic had the momentum and finished off the set on a 3-0 run sparked by kills from Roundy and Elgarico.

The next two sets were crazy tight and swung back and forth, forth and back.

Marist Catholic’s defense, led by De Lee and Alexa Henderson, seemed impregnable in the Spartans’ 5-1 start to the third set, but Marshfield found a way and rallied from down 23-21 with four straight to end the frame, including a massive solo block from Analise McCord and two closing kills from Gould.

The fourth set felt a lot like the third, both in the fast start by Marist Catholic and the crazy momentum shifts in this pitched battle. Marshfield led 21-19 late, on Gould’s 2-ball kill out of the middle, but the Pirates could not hang on. After an Elgarico swing brought Marist within one, the game turned on a Gould overdig kill being nullified because she impeded Rohman’s ability to set the ball by going over the net. Rather than Marshfield being up by two, the teams were tied yet again. Marist Catholic was better in this set’s end game, with Spurlock come up with two late kills, one from each pin, to send the match to the fifth set.

The epic final chapter in this “instant classic” started with Tuguldur’s ace serve. Marist led 2-1 before Marshfield scored twice in succession to take the lead, on a Gould block and her kill assisted by libero Gracie Peach. Marist Catholic responded with three in a row, as two Elgarico kills sandwiched one from Spurlock.

The rollercoaster was just getting started.

A slide tip from Marshfield middle Alie Clarke gave the Pirates a one-point lead. An ace from Marist middle Abigail Schombert capped a 3-0 run to put the Spartans in control again. Gould and Montiel each had multiple kills to help Marshfield inch back in front, 13-12. Then came Elgarico’s kills to get Marist Catholic its first match point, and, well…you know the rest.

Gould finished with 27 kills and 10 digs for Marshfield (27-4), which won 12 matches in a row between the two losses to Marist Catholic. Montiel had 20 kills and 10 digs, MacDuff contributed 16 kills and 10 digs, Ainsworth had 56 assists, 15 digs and six kills and Peach had a match-high 20 digs.

“It’s disappointing but it’s an honor to get here two years in a row,” said Coach Montiel. “I’m proud of the girls. They fought to the very end. We’re going to hang another banner in the gym, just not the color that we wanted.”

Elgarico led Marist Catholic (23-2) with 28 kills and nine digs. The Spartans, who lost only to Marshfield and 3A runner up Pleasant Hill all season, also got 16 kills and 13 digs from Tuguldur, 56 assists, 12 digs and seven kills from Rohman, 15 kills combined from Spurlock and Roundy and 26 digs combined from De Lee and Henderson.

“We gritted it out and gutted it out,” Pimental said. “Doing it together; that’s what we’re all about. The girls remembered the game plan and did a great job of following what we wanted them to do.”

And they’re state champions for the first time in 24 years.

“This was our goal all along, Tuguldur explained. “We got that taste of victory against Marshfield at home [in September]. We knew we could do it and we achieved it.”

In the 4A third/fifth match…

Cascade 3, Mazama 0 – The Vikings played gamely and got really nice work in the middle from sophomore Cali Bitzer, but the Cougars’ big guns – OH Kam Sande, MB Annabelle Peterson, libero Jadyn Daviscourt and setter Irene Rocha Ibarra – were all on their games in this match. Bella Oliver, an unsung senior lefty with a big swing, ended the first two sets with kills, while Peterson did the honors to complete the sweep.

Cascade, which placed second last year, was especially tough behind the service line, with Sande and Daviscourt scoring often on serve.

Both Mazama, which had never made the state tournament before last season, and Cascade will graduate large and impactful senior classes. Bitzer is back for the Vikings, while Cascade will return Rocha Ibarra and OH Emma Kirschenmann.

In the 4A consolation match…

North Bend 3, Tillamook 1 – North Bend’s first state tournament appearance in 11 years culminated in a fifth-place finish, as the Bulldogs lost a tight third set to deny themselves the sweep, but opened the fourth set on a 14-2 run to put an exclamation point on an outstanding season.

Libero Mirra Riddle was a rock in the win for North Bend. Annika Norberg found room every now and again for Tillamook, as did Lexie Graves and Kate Klobas, but Riddle was usually in complete control behind the 10-foot line, which meant few balls were going down. Offensively, Lennon Riddle and Madison West led the charge from either pin. MB Emma Spalding and OH Drew Hood had their moments as well.

Next year will be interesting for both of these teams, as North Bend graduates all of its impact players, (though sophomore Carley Lucero ended the match with one of her several aces. Tillamook, with 11 seniors on its 12-player roster, graduates virtually the entire squad.