Volleyball team battles adversity on the road

By Gini Davis

The Creswell Chronicle

The sixth-ranked Creswell Lady Bulldogs defeated host Harrisburg, 25-23, 25-13, 25-20 on Oct. 3 before falling to fourth-ranked host Coquille, 23-25, 20-25, 25-27 on Oct. 5 during Homecoming Week.

With a full slate of activities at school, it was a tough week to be on the road for the Lady Dawgs – and a spate of injuries and illness added to the stress.

At Coquille, two starters, middle hitter Breanna Dapron and libero Jane Marquess, were out with illness and an injury, respectively, and starting outside hitter Cassie Cunningham – a stat leader offensively and defensively – played while battling illness.

“I had to come up with a whole new rotation, moving kids around to new positions,” said Head Coach Anna Baltrusch. “Cassie and (setter) Bailey (Howell) both played middle for a while, Kylee (Whitson) played outside, and Macy (Waller) was in the whole time as right-side hitter. But the girls actually played pretty good – the two closest games we were ahead and should’ve won.”

Coquille hitter McKenna Wilson was effectively shut down by Creswell’s defense: “She had about 23 kills on us last time and only about 10 this time,” Baltrusch said. “We were stuff-blocking her; the girls did an amazing job of shutting her down.”

Cassie Cunningham paced Creswell with 16 kills, 13 digs, three stuff blocks and three aces. Kaylee Cunningham had seven digs and two aces; Bailey Howell had four stuff blocks, seven digs and 11 assists; Karley Bellew had three stuff blocks; and Aleesha Fox had three aces and nine assists.

“I was just so proud of how well the kids overcame some adversity and really pleased with how well we played,” Baltrusch said. “I have no doubt if we have our full team and we’re all healthy, we should be successful next time.”

At Harrisburg, the Lady Dawgs were also without Marquess and laden with Homecoming demands. “Homecoming week is always exhausting,” Baltrusch said. “The girls are on float committees, they’re princesses, there’s all the extracurricular stuff….”

The varsity also cheered throughout the five-game JV match, so by their own game, “the kids were worn out – but the Harrisburg coach was really impressed with how they cheered for the JV kids and asked how they could get their varsity girls to do the same, so that was quite a compliment to the girls,” Baltrusch said.

Creswell started slow. In game one, “We were behind until they had about 22 points, then we came back and beat them,” Baltrusch said. “But in the second game we had fantastic ball control and played so well, and then I mixed it up to give other kids some playing time.”

Cassie Cunningham led with 21 kills and six aces, Kaylee Cunningham had 11 digs, Howell had five kills and 20 assists, Bellew had four kills and seven digs and Sarah Lanz had 10 digs.

“Once we started playing the way we should’ve been playing, Harrisburg really couldn’t get too close,” Baltrusch said.