By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Since the creation of the current format of the PacWest Conference, Salem Academy has been nothing short of spectacular in league.
That was, until Blanchet Catholic snapped the Crusaders league winning streak for the PacWest Title in 2016 with a three sets-to-two victory on October 25.
Fittingly, it would be a great match-up when the schedule was released that the start of league for both teams would have been against each other, and it lived up to the billing.
The Lady Cavailers took sets one (25-23) and two (29-27) before Salem Academy responded with set three (25-17) and four (25-16) to avoid being handed their first loss of the season by forcing a decisive fifth set.
And with the game tied at 10 in the best of 15, Blanchet wasn’t going to be handed their first league loss without a fight, and it’s just apart of the Cavs proving why they are more than just a ‘underdog’ in the 3A level with their fight they’ve proved all Tuesday Night.
“I definitely think the way we battled tonight shows that we’re a team to be reckoning with and we working really hard,” said Blanchet’s Kalea Salang. “We’ve been working since the first day of July and we’ve been in the gym every single day and we just love this sport, we put all of our passion to it.”
Salem Academy’s Kara Standridge and company knew it was going to be a battle to get these last five points for the win, but confidence was there was the ball went into play while Salang describe it was one of the toughest they’ve faced all year
“Oh it’s great, especially against a Blanchet who we’ve always competed against,” said Standridge after the win. “We’ve always had great games but this was a intense match and it was really important for us to win this game.”
“It was definitely one of the most intense matches we’ve had all season,” describes Salang on the game. “With their student section, they were pumping us up. Salem Academy they’re our biggest rivals in our league, so we’re all just pumped up especially for this game and when the games are tight, we love it.”
Salang pointing to them using the Crusader student section as mojo to continue to go, push and fight all match long, and you saw them trying to use it once more for the final push; but the Lady Crusaders found a way to redeem the loss on that faithful October day in 2016 with a 5-1 run to remain unbeaten in 2017.
“Honestly, got to take it one point at a time” said Standridge who had a team-high 10 kills and added another two blocks in the 23-25, 27-29, 25-17, 25-16, 15-11 win Tuesday night on the road on the mindset with trying to get to 15 first before Blanchet did. “Every point matter but you got to have the first pass and the first net, the first kill. Overall our intensity all together really helped us push, it was great.”
Now as Blanchet turns their focus on Jefferson (4-0, 1-0 PacWest) Thursday and Salem Academy host Scio (3-1, 1-0 PacWest) Wednesday, Salem Academy knows that when September 28 rolls around; it could be another five-set thriller when the two teams meet again.
As for Salang, who’s played club ball with several of the Lady Crusader players, know’s it’ll be fun to try to even the league series with them then as they continue on with this chip on their shoulders moving forward.
“I definitely think a lot of people view us as underdogs and that really drives us to try get us to drive more, but we do have a younger team, so a lot of them it shows the maturity level and get their confidence that’s growing.”