By Jeremy McDonald
ST. PAUL, Ore.– St. Paul’s 25-11, 25-16, 25-21 sweep of seventh-ranked Echo was very similar to their four-set victory over Central Christian back on Saturday with a theme:
Start strong. Finish with a battle.
But hey. A victory is a victory as they reach their fourth-straight Semi-final game dating back to 2018.
“It was super close like the Central Christian game, I think we played to our level and we need this competition…this was great for us getting ready for State,” Halsie Hempfling said. “We did good. It was good getting some adversity with a couple of issues on our team that we’re overcoming. Anyone can get thrown in, all of our players are pretty good all-around.”
The Buckaroos jumped on the Cougars in the opening set with a 10-2 advantage to start as they coasted to take the match lead going into the second set.
But it was the second set when Echo shook off the rust of their four-hour drive to the Willamette Valley, staying within a handful of points of St. Paul going into the final points of the set down 16-15 before the Bucks pulled away looking for the sweep.
Their Big Sky League opposition had other plans however. The Cougars roared out to a 4-2 lead and seemed to have turned momentum against St. Paul leading 18-17 with Annabelle Davidson leaving the match due to injury as the junior went into the hallway.
Davidson returned moments later and didn’t return to the court until the final point of the match, challenging the depth of the Buckaroos ahead of the Final Four Weekend ahead.
“We knew we had the players on the bench to step up and fill the position. All of us are so capable of being a starter. Losing Annabelle scared us, but we just had a drive in us to get to 25 in that last set,” Gracie Koch said.
It felt like a State Championship Game with the crowd. Little St. Paul packed the gym for their team. Echo traveled well to fill the other half of the gym not occupied by Buck fans as St. Paul caught their breath and began to pull away.
Clinching yet another trip to the final location in the pursuit of a State Title.
“I think it’s super good, we’ve been playing good all year and working for it so we’re ready,” Hempfling said. “It’s super cool, it’s my second time to play there so I’m super excited.”
“We’ve been working so hard and working so hard as a team. We may have lost a few runs but just getting together and knowing State is on the line, we want this more than any other team and we’ve worked so hard for it. We want to get that title and we’re really proud to be going to Redmond this weekend,” adds Koch.
The Buckaroos open the Final Four against Damascus Christian Friday at 3:30pm at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald