By René Ferrán | For The Oregonian/OregonLive
Photos by Taylor Balkom, for The Oregonian/OregonLive
There was a storybook ending to Saturday night’s Class 6A volleyball state championship match.
It just perhaps wasn’t the one that the capacity crowd at Hillsboro’s Liberty High School expected.
The final chapter to this page-turner was supposed to end with Central Catholic’s Hall of Fame coach, Rick Lorenz, walking off the court with one final title to his name.
The plot twist, though, came when on the final swing of her volleyball career, Jesuit senior Ella Masingale blasted the ball to the floor to give the Crusaders a thrilling five-set victory to repeat as state champions.
“That was my last hurrah,” Masingale said. “I was very nervous. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to put that ball down. When it happened, I couldn’t believe it at first. It’s just crazy.”
Masingale’s 17th kill finished a 25-21, 24-26, 27-25, 23-25, 15-13 victory that was every bit as close as the scoreline would indicate.
“I’m upset that the point differential was two points, because you can find those two points anywhere,” said Rams senior Mia Jordan, who had a match-high 28 kills. “I thought it would be a happy ending, but that’s just the way life goes.
“I just feel sorry for Rick. I feel like we let him down in a way.”
Lorenz, though, was quick to dismiss any such talk.
“I’ve been in this long enough to know you’ve got to have a little luck to win it, especially when it’s this close,” Lorenz said. “Lady Luck wasn’t on our side, but I’m not disappointed for me, but for the girls. I’ve had my glory years, but we had eight seniors. I wanted to see them go out with a win. That would have been nice.”
Lorenz finished with a record of 1,342-205 in a 44-year career at St. Mary’s Academy (1976-86), Lake Oswego (1987) and Central Catholic, the Southeast Portland school where he spent his final 32 seasons and guided the Rams to 19 title match appearances. He won 11 state championships and 13 runner-up trophies.
“I’m not going to disappear. I mean, I live five minutes from Central,” said Lorenz, who still will teach part-time at the school and run the Rose City Volleyball Club.
“I always see myself as an artist first. I’ve got my stained glass. I’ve got plenty of things to do. I knew four years ago this would be it. I wanted to get to the finals, and we did.”
Jesuit’s road to the final wasn’t as smooth as a year ago, when the Crusaders rode a senior class that included two Division I hitters (Alyssa Hughes at Gonzaga and Rose Booth at Loyola Marymount) to the title.
“We had so many people doubting us, telling us we wouldn’t be able to do it,” said junior Maddy Dowdall, who led Jesuit with 19 kills. “It’s just impressive that we were able to form such a young team and lose all of our seniors and come back and do this.
“People were telling us, they’re done, there’s no way they can get a chance back at this, and we did it. We pushed together and believed in each other, and we did it. It was our year.”
Masingale and Dowdall played bit roles on last year’s championship squad, but each played starring roles in Saturday’s decisive fifth set. A kill by Masingale erased Central Catholic’s final lead, and Dowdall followed with a kill to put Jesuit ahead to stay.
Dowdall also earned a kill when a blocked ball deflected off her head and back over the net to get the Crusaders to match point at 14-10. Jordan’s kill staved off one match point, and she and Marianna Payne combined on a block to keep hope alive.
A Jesuit hitting error led to a timeout, and Jordan acknowledged thinking for a moment that this was how the story should end – with a dramatic comeback for the title.
“They fought hard, and I knew it was for him,” Masingale said.
Any remorse she might have felt for having rewritten the storybook ending, though, was swept away with the emotion of winning a championship that wasn’t expected.
“We had pretty big shoes to fill coming into this season,” she said. “We knew we were going to be underdogs.”
That won’t be the case next year. The Crusaders graduate only two seniors, meaning a three-peat – something that hasn’t happened at Class 6A since Central Catholic won three consecutive titles from 2009-11 – is a definite possibility.
“It’s going to take hard work,” said sophomore middle Tess Masingale, Ella’s younger sister who had 16 kills and seven blocks. “We still have some flaws that we need to work out, but next year we’re going to come back stronger. It’s going to be a good run for us next year, too.”
Junior Peyton Griffin added 11 kills, five blocks, 29 assists and 12 digs for the Crusaders (25-4), and fellow setter Alison Buchholz had 31 assists and 20 digs.
Payne had 12 kills and five blocks for the Rams (27-4). Makenah Jackson added seven kills and six blocks, and setters Kealani Rosa and Lauren Stemple had 25 assists apiece.
Third/fifth: Canby 3, West Linn 0
The 11th-seeded Cougars held a 2-1 lead against Central Catholic in Friday’s semifinal before falling 15-9 in the fifth, but they bounced back to sweep Three Rivers League rival West Linn 26-24, 25-21, 25-20 to place third.
“We came into the tournament supremely confident because we had nothing to lose,” said junior outside hitter Daley McClellan, a first-team all-tournament selection. “We were the Cinderella story of the tournament, and I’m really happy with our finish.”
Fourth/sixth: Mountainside 3, Summit 0
The Mavericks, making their first tournament appearance, blew a 2-0 lead against Canby in their quarterfinal match Friday morning, but they came back to sweep Sunset and Summit to take home the fourth-place trophy, beating the Storm 25-23, 25-21, 25-13.
“This sets a really good example for the younger players coming into the program,” said senior Izzi Szulczewski, who will play at the University of Portland. “This was really big for our coaches and our players going into next year.”