Jesuit's volleyball team celebrates with the state championship trophy after defeating Oregon City on Saturday night.
Jesuit's volleyball team celebrates with the state championship trophy after defeating Oregon City on Saturday night.

FOREST GROVE – It didn't come without plenty of drama, but Jesuit finally seized the volleyball state championship that has been so elusive in recent seasons.

The top-seeded Crusaders (31-2) fought back from a two-set deficit to overtake scrappy Oregon City 21-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-18, 15-13 in the final of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A tournament Saturday night at Forest Grove High School.

Jesuit, the runner-up the last two seasons, won its first title since going back-to-back in 2018 and 2019. It is the Crusaders' eighth championship, all since 2004.

“It means so much,” senior hitter Emma Williams said. “For so many years we've known we're the best and we haven't been able to live up to our expectations. And this year we have the hardware to prove it.”

The title comes one year after Jesuit entered the tournament unbeaten and with the top seed but lost to Sheldon in four sets in the final.

“They worked hard all year long to get here,” said Jesuit coach Teresa Zimmerlee, who finished her 31st season with the team. “They were a little sore about the loss last year., so they were bound and determined to get back here and give it a shot.

“I wish that those kids who graduated last year could have had the experience. But these kids are bringing it for them, too.”

The Crusaders rallied behind senior Lilly Lansing (17 kills), sophomore Sadie Ross (15 kills) and Williams (14 kills). Sophomore Sloan Hefeneider and junior Addy Azavedo had team highs of 21 assists and 14 digs, respectively.

It all came down to the decisive fifth set. Jesuit led 6-2, but third-seeded Oregon City wouldn't back down, surging ahead 10-9 on a kill by senior Brooke Williams.

Jesuit answered with the next five points to lead 14-10, getting a kill from Williams, an ace from junior Hayden McGehee and three consecutive points from junior Ellie Carroll, the first on a block and the next two on kills.

The Pioneers (23-4) closed to within 14-13 when Williams blocked Lansing, but after a timeout, Jesuit got the winning point when senior McKenna Brent's serve was long.

“Oh my gosh, that was a roller coaster,” Lansing said. “I'm really glad we got our stuff together, and I'm just overly joyful with how my team played, how we pulled it out. I'm so beyond happy for how this ended.”

Trailing by two sets, Lansing had a message for her teammates.

“I sort of said that we needed to play for each other, and that we have nothing to lose,” Lansing said. “And this is our last time playing together as a team this season, and just to leave it all out on the court.”

The Crusaders were able to stem Oregon City's momentum and become the aggressor.

“The first two games we were playing just to their level,” Williams said. “We were just kind of coasting. That third set, we were like, 'OK, this is our last chance. We're not going to do this for the third year in a row.'

“So we just went for it. We made some lineup changes that ended up being risks that really paid off. We started playing really well, started playing to our pace of the game, and not their pace.”

Zimmerlee lauded the resilience of her team, which defeated Oregon City in two sets in the teams' only previous meeting this season.

“These guys have been tough all year,” Zimmerlee said. “We have some pretty young kids, and they stepped up and played really well. And then the vets just led the way.”

Carroll's net play in the fifth set was pivotal.

“She really wanted it,” Zimmerlee said. “She stepped up and contributed big-time in crucial moments.”

Oregon City, playing in its first final, got 26 kills from Arizona-bound junior Paige Thies and 10 kills from senior middle blocker Olivia Adamo.

“I think we actually played really good,” Thies said. “I think that we really came together as a team. We brought all the energy that we could. … It was just amazing even being on the court playing in this.”

The Pioneers were unable to sustain the intensity they showed in the first two sets.

“I think we kind of let off the gas in the third and fourth set, thinking that we kind of had it,” Thies said. “But I think Jesuit just came back with more fire. Our energy kind of shifted. We started not playing as well, playing kind of down. Jesuit just came back very powerful.”