Lady Dawgs’ state road ends with 2-3 playoff loss

By Gini Davis

The Creswell Chronicle

A successful season ended in heartbreak as the sixth-ranked Lady Bulldogs narrowly missed punching their return ticket to the OSAA big dance, falling 21-25, 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 9-15 to visiting 11th-ranked Portland Christian during a state playoffs game on Oct. 28.

“I knew they were a really good team, but we had beaten them before (in straight sets at a tournament),” said Creswell Head Coach Anna Baltrusch. “They’ve got two really good hitters, they’re good blockers, they were digging everything, and the rotations worked out to be in their favor. Both teams were making adjustments out there, but the matchup of their strengths and weaknesses and ours just were not good for us.”

Cassie Cunningham led Creswell with 30 kills. Bailey Howell had seven kills and provided 41 assists. Breanna Dapron had seven kills and three aces, and Kaylee Cunningham and Karley Bellew each had five kills.

Bellew had one ace, and “Kaylee served a ton of points – eight, five, five, three, and four in the five games,” Baltrusch noted.

To earn their way into state playoffs, the Lady Dawgs downed visiting Harrisburg 25-13, 25-15, 25-17 during a league playoff game on Oct. 23, then traveled the next night to meet Coquille, battling hard before falling 25-17, 23-25, 16-25, 25-20, 15-10 to the second-ranked Red Devils.

With the victory, Coquille earned the league championship and first seed to state. Creswell entered state playoffs as the league’s second seed.

Against Harrisburg, Cassie Cunningham had 23 kills and 10 digs, Bellew had six kills, Dapron had three stuff blocks and two aces, Sarah Lanz had three aces, Howell provided 22 assists and Aleesha Fox contributed eight assists.

“The girls played really well; it was a solid game,” Baltrusch said.

At Coquille, Cassie Cunningham again paced her team, with 28 kills and 35 digs.

Howell had 12 kills, including five in a row during the fourth set, 19 digs and 16 assists. Dapron had three kills, 16 digs, eight stuff blocks and three aces. “She played a fantastic game,” Baltrusch said.

Bellew had two kills and 19 digs, Lanz had three aces, and Fox provided 16 assists – “she set Bailey a lot,” noted Baltrusch – and two aces. “She served an average of five points in each set; she did a great job serving,” Baltrusch said.

Despite the loss, “it was a great game,” Baltrusch said. “The girls played really well.”

The win netted the Red Devils the league championship and first seed to state, while Creswell went as second seed. But for the first time in many, many years, the Lady Dawgs’ season will end without a seat in the final eight.

“It’s too bad we won’t be going back to Forest Grove (for the state championships). I feel really bad for the girls; they wanted it really bad,” Baltrusch said. “But it was a great season. These were an amazing group of young women to coach – they’re really like a family.”