Madi Cavell tips the ball over the net on a soft touch in the Celts’ quarterfinal match with the Jesuit Crusaders Friday, Nov. 12. (Keizertimes/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Their time in the state playoffs may not have have ended precisely as they hoped, but the girls of the McNary High School varsity volleyball team were excited enough having defied most expectations – and with a sixth place finish.

“After losing seven seniors, I wasn’t sure how this season would go,” said Simona Arnautov, a McNary senior. “But we all played with heart and showed people what we’re all about.”

The Celtics faced Jesuit High School Friday, Nov. 12, in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs and faltered under the vicious offense of the perennial powerhouse. McNary lost in three sets, 25-15, 25-22, 25-12.

“We just didn’t execute as well as we had been,” said Dustin Walker, McNary head coach.

Among its arsenal of talent, Jesuit boasts one of the top talents in the state, Liz Brenner, whose attacks sounded like cannons firing as they reverberated around the gym.

“It’s kind of scary cause you’re afraid for your face,” said Celt Keri Stein. At one point, McNary setter Megan Holland got sideswiped by a ball on a dig and the team had to call a time out a few plays later as she recovered.

McNary’s best set with Jesuit was the second. The Celtics kept pace with Crusaders in a back-and-forth match, but Jesuit crowded them out on the final points of the match.

“The second match was definitely more reflective of the way we can play,” Walker said.

Madi Cavell had 27 kills and four blocks in the match. Deven Hunter had 12 kills and three blocks. Holland had 33 assists. Whittley Harrell had 20 digs. Stein had three aces.

McNary faced Oregon City and Gresham high schools in the final day of the tournament.

“I think it was easier to compete with Oregon City because we played them twice earlier this season and beat them,” Arnautov said.

McNary won in three sets, 25-19 , 26-24 ,25-22.

“Madi hit over .600 in that match and had only one hitting error,” Walker said. “We also passed really well.”

Cavell had 27 kills and four blocks. Hunter had 12 kills and three blocks. Holland doled out 33 assists, Harrell pulled out 20 digs and Stein served up three aces.

The win set up a fourth place match with Gresham High School. The Celts lost in four sets, 25-20, 16-25, 25-18, 25-18, and ended their season in sixth place.

“I think that we tried hard, but we could have dug deeper and come out with a win. It just didn’t happen,” Stein said.

Endurance also became a factor in the match, Arnautov added.

“Having to compete like that [with top teams] was something we weren’t used to,” she said.

Cavell made 16 kills in the match and nine blocks. Hunter added 15 kills, six blocks and two aces. Holland contributed 32 assists. Arnautov made 24 digs and Stein added two aces.

“A couple of ball handling errors and a couple of missed hits made the difference,” Walker said. “But we had a great season. We knew we were fighting for a league title and we did that undefeated. I’m extremely proud and pleased with our girls.”

Overall, Stein was pleased with the season’s outcome, too.

“I think we did really well. I didn’t expect us to get as far as we did. I expected more of us when we got there, but you can only do so much,” she said.