By Jeremy McDonald
MT. ANGEL, Ore.– It seems weird that eight-short weeks ago that this game, Salem Academy-Kennedy on April 7, 2021 for the Tri-River Conference title may have not been a possibility with Marion County in the ‘Extreme’-Risk level.
But once the county had dropped to High right before the start of the season, the team’s were no doubt ready to play some volleyball. Regardless if it was one-game or as many as they ultimately got in by Wednesday night.
“It was amazing. A couple of days before the season even started our athletic director was like, ‘you guys could possibly be canceled’ and we were like ‘no’…we had hope and everything,” said the Crusaders Peyton Donaldson. “Then our county got pushed down to high-risk and we were like ‘we can play this season. We’re going to give it everything we can. Even if it’s a hodgepodge season’. At least we can still get to play because there’s some girls out there who just can’t right now.”
Salem Academy jumped out to a 8-3 first set lead thanks in part to a 8-0 run to start the match. Slowly the Trojans came around and rallied by the Crusaders 25-21 in their four-set 25-23, 25-22, 18-25, 25-18 victory over Salem Academy.
Both the opening sets were highly contested, but Kennedy would slowly pull away in the final points to extend their season set-streak to 43 entering the third set.
“(Salem Academy) is a really good team, I’m glad we had some competition. We actually had to play pretty hard and together as a team to pull that off, so I’m happy we got to finish off strong,” said the Trojans Elise Suing. “We definitely wanted this a lot, so that third set really put us in the mindset of ‘ok, we have to push right now’ and then we pulled it off in the fourth. It was really exciting.”
That third set was the fuel on the fire for everyone. Fuel for Kennedy to finish off the 16-0 season, fuel for Salem Academy to not get swept. Two powerhouse programs colliding on the court one more time to wrap up the six-week season.
The Crusaders dug deep, knowing as well that the Trojans played three days-in-a-row, saw Hannah Warde lead the charge in the third set. Snapping Kennedy’s month-long rally that dated to the fourth set of when the two teams met on March 5 in Salem to extend the match to four sets. Setting the tone early and keeping their energy high and steady throughout the third set.
“It felt great for our last game just to bring it all in as a team. We came in with fire and we were having so much fun,” Warde said of the third set.
The question now was how the Trojans would respond? They’ve only been in this jam once when they one in five-sets against Salem Academy back on that early March day, every other game since have been swept.
But they came out in the fourth set with as much anger as a wasp nest after you hit it with a baseball bat. Jumping out to a 7-1 lead and led as much as 11-3 in the set, challenging the Crusaders to do it again.
“The third set kind of eye opening. They came out ready to play, they brought everything out and it was nice to come back and actually get into a groove and be the Kennedy team we know we are and finish it off on a win,” said Kennedy’s Hailey Arritola.
Salem Academy made one last rally to see if they can catch-up however. With a 9-5 advantage, the Crusaders got back to within four 16-12, but the Trojans early start proved too much to overcome. Holding off Salem Academy for the undefeated season and the league championships.
“It’s awesome. I think our athletic director said we’re the first time to ever go undefeated at Kennedy. So that’s pretty cool I have to say. It’s pretty sad that we’re done, but I’m happy with how we finished and the career all five of us seniors have had,” Arritola said.
“It was nice to dig deep and push through. I knew we were behind, we all had doubts in our heads, but we just dug deep and kept going until the very last second. We were definitely not upset with how we played. We played our hearts out,” adds Warde, a first-team All-League selection.
Arritola was named Conference Player of the Year as her Suing, Emma Beyer, Kelsey Kleinschmidt and Ellie Cantu finished their careers on a 41-game winning streak and were 102-10 overall with a State Championship game.
Salem Academy, in their first year in 2A after finishing third in 3A in 2019, finished the year 9-3.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald