FOREST GROVE — Santiam Christian High did nearly everything right to build a commanding 2-0 lead in Saturday’s OSAA 3A state volleyball championship match.
The rest of the night belonged to Caroline McMahon and Cascade Christian.
McMahon finished with 42 kills, seven coming in the fifth set, as the top-seeded Challengers stormed back to upend No. 3 Santiam Christian in a five-set thriller at Forest Grove High. Set scores were 21-25, 20-25, 26-24, 26-24, 15-8.
“We started struggling with our block,” SC coach Kelli Fitzpatrick said. “Our block would be late and it started eating us up on the court. No matter what we did, they just answered back.”
The Challengers (25-3) closed the match on a 6-0 run after SC (22-4) fought back to trim the deficit to 9-8. Two McMahon kills and an Olivia Borg ace helped Cascade Christian corral its second consecutive title.
SC, which was seeking its eighth championship, made it back to the state tournament for a 15th consecutive season.
“These girls have fought the entire year,” Fitzpatrick said. “Off the court, they are incredible friends and incredible people who have loved each other the entire season. They’ve had more fun than I’ve had with any team, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
SC senior Rebeka Preston was named first-team all-tournament after collecting 10 kills, 10 digs, four aces and three block assists Saturday night. Teammate Emily Bourne had 17 kills and Kassie Staton finished with 11 kills, 15 digs and two aces.
Josie Risinger led the way with five aces while Micah Penner tallied four. As a team, the Eagles tallied 20 aces with just eight service errors.
Leah Boyer, Madison Wobig, Staton and Bourne were voted second-team all-tournament.
McMahon, a junior, had 17 digs and four aces to go with her 42 kills. The 5-foot-8 hitter was effective from all over the floor.
“She just kept changing it up,” Fitzpatrick said. “She was hitting sharp angle, then she was hitting line and she’d hit short. And because we couldn’t block her, our defense just didn’t pick it up.”
The Eagles, who earned a four-set victory over Cascade Christian earlier this year, used an 8-1 spurt to grab a 15-10 lead in the opening set. The scoring run included two Boyer kills and a pair of aces from Risinger and Penner.
The Challengers pulled within two on five separate occasions but would get no closer. Another Risinger ace and kills by Amanda Preston and Staton closed it out.
Penner gave SC some early momentum in the second set with a difficult dig near the net. Staton then spiked a winner as the Eagles went up 3-1.
A Bourne kill and two more from Staton made it 7-3, prompting a Cascade Christian timeout. The Challengers would again get within two at 15-13 before SC answered with a 5-0 run to put it away.
Boyer ended the set with a clever tip winner.
After trailing most of the third, SC fought back to tie the match at 23 on a Penner ace. But McMahon collected consecutive kills to get Cascade Christian on the board.
The Eagles also fell behind in the fourth before an Aliyah Atkins setter dump and Wobig ace tied it at 15. Another Wobig ace capped a 6-0 run that left SC up 18-15.
But Cascade Christian would again turn to McMahon, who had four kills down the stretch to force a decisive fifth set.