By Jeremy McDonald
SHERIDAN, Ore.– The upstart Sheridan Spartans weren’t backing down to Salem Academy Thursday night.
Matter of fact, their performance in the Crusaders 25-21, 25-10, 25-18 victory was a step in the right direction in a season in which they’re hoping to snap their playoff drought; having reached the playoffs back in the 2015-2016 when they were in 3A.
“We did better than we thought we were going to do. It was a big accomplishment for us because we want to be neck-and-neck with them and now that we’re in the same league together…we’re getting there. It’s really good to know and feel that we can do that and that we stayed neck-and-neck with them the whole time,” Sheridan’s Onahzay Pacheco said.
The 11-win Sparta squad hung around during the first, keeping pace with the steel wall that is Salem Academy with the set knotted up at 13. But with a team like the Crusaders, give them an inch, they’ll take it a mile.
A 5-0 run by Salem gave them enough of a cushion and momentum to withhold the Sheridan rally going into the second set. That second set looked like the Crusaders were in Redmond form, taking full advantage of the opportunities given to them as they rolled to the 25-10 second set victory.
“We had a slow start, but we came out really, really strong in the second and then pulled it off in the third,” Salem Academy’s Bailey Pedersen said. “A lot of rallies (in the third set)…it’s super good. I like how we’re playing all different divisions; we’re playing 3A, 2A, 1A and I think it’s getting us a lot more experienced with other teams. We’re just trying to get as state ready as we can.”
The Crusaders finished Tri-River Conference play undefeated as they now await who comes through the league playoffs for the number one seed out of the conference. Salem Academy have wheeled off 20-straight victories after starting the season 0-2 with their sights on making a deep run for the State Title here in a few weeks.
“It’s super awesome. Coming off the two losses at the start of the season, we were playing tough teams but it was good to come back and beat Horizon Christian at our tournament,” Pedersen said. “I think the tournaments have really helped us and helped put us here.”
The Spartans settled back down in the third set and once again found themselves in the match, rallying to tie the game at 12-apiece. They couldn’t get over the hump however to steal the set from the top-ranked squad in 2A as they’ll close out the regular season traveling across town to play Delphian before starting league playoffs next week.
“I thought we brought ourselves back as a team, worked together as a team and that helped us a lot,” Pacheco said of the third set. “We just need to play our hardest. Work as a team, keep on practicing hard and practice as you play.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald