on November 05, 2016 11:59 PM, updated November 06, 2016 2:42 AM
HILLSBORO – Central Catholic, long one of the volleyball powers in the state of Oregon, added another chapter to its lore, this time with an underdog theme.
The Rams entered the OSAA Class 6A tournament as the No. 3 seed, but exited with the sixth state title in program history after a sweep of Clackamas in the championship match at Liberty High School.
Senior Maddie Batiste, who suffered through losses in the previous three championship matches, was fierce at the net, getting 20 kills, including the match winner, as the Rams took a 26-24, 25-13, 25-9 victory.
“I’ve been runner-up all three years, and I told my team, this is the time to do it, this is my time to win,” Batiste said. “They got on board, and we took care of business.”
Senior Catherine Johnson added nine kills, and Matalasi Laban had 31 assists for the Rams (25-5), who beat their Mt. Hood Conference rivals for the fifth time this season.
The championship might have been the most unlikely for the Rams. When they won three in a row from 2009 to 2011, they lost a total of four matches. This season, however, Central Catholic even suffered a Mt. Hood Conference defeat, against Barlow, to snap a 146-match conference winning streak that dated to 2004.
“This was probably the most unlikely one,” Central Catholic coach Rick Lorenz said. “We just changed a few things, and the kids kept working. We hung in there and the kids played really well.”
Clackamas (20-9), the No. 10 seed which made the championship match for the second time, and first since the inaugural year of volleyball as a championship sport in 1974, had its fans rocking early when it built a 17-11 lead in the first set, and twice had set points.
But with Clackamas leading 24-20, Central Catholic won six points in a row, with Johnson got three kills, including the last two to win the set.
From there, the Rams asserted their dominance against the Cavaliers, who took just one set against Central Catholic in their five meetings.
“It was an amazing experience, the girls came in ranked No. 10, and they came in second,” Clackamas coach Darcy McMurray said. “They had a great state tournament and overachieved.”
The title came after those three consecutive runner-up finishes for Central Catholic, which lost to Lakeridge in 2013 and to Jesuit the last two years. Jesuit entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and big favorite.
But the door was opened for Central Catholic on Friday when Sunset beat Jesuit in five sets in a first-round match that sent the two-time defending champion Crusaders, who had won 92 matches in a row, to the consolation bracket.
The championship served as a curtain call of sorts Lorenz, who completed his 28th year at the helm. It came one year after Lorenz was inducted into the National Federation Of State High School Associations Hall of Fame. The championship was Lorenz’s 11th (his first five came with St. Mary’s) and came 40 years after he won his first, as St. Mary’s coach.
Even at 67, and his 68th birthday coming in April, Lorenz said he will most certainly return in 2017.
“I gotta to defend my title, don’t I?” he said with a deep laugh.
— Mike Tokito