The state tournament has become the expectation for Lebanon High’s volleyball program.
For the sixth consecutive season, the Warriors are headed to the 5A state quarterfinals following the Oct. 28 3-1 victory over visiting La Salle in the round of 16. No. 7 Lebanon (14-6) will play second-seeded North Eugene (24-1) at 3:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 at Liberty High in Hillsboro.
“This is all I’ve been wanting my whole life,” said senior Tabitha Trupka, a South Albany transfer. “I’m super stoked and I’m excited to see what our team does.”
After splitting the first two sets, the Warriors survived nine set points in a wild third before pulling out a 36-34 win. Lebanon cruised in the fourth to punch its ticket to state.
Set scores were 23-25, 26-24, 36-34, 25-18.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where we’ve gone that high into the 30s,” said Lebanon coach Jorden Swanson, a former Warriors standout setter. “I’m really proud of my team. I think physically we didn’t actually have what it took tonight, but we somehow found it.”
Trailing 24-22 in the third, Lebanon fended off set point after set point until a Nicole Christie kill finally put the hosts in front at 32-31.
No. 10 La Salle (14-7) escaped three set points of its own before another Christie kill and an attack error ended the drama. Long volleys became routine as both teams showcased their defense and tenacity.
“We got a lot of momentum from that set,” Trupka said. “Because it made us feel like ‘oh my God, we’re doing it. We’re going to win this.’”
A pair of Ally Wessel aces gave Lebanon a quick 5-2 lead in the fourth. The Warriors then used a 7-0 run to put it away at 19-12, reducing a previously boisterous La Salle cheering section to silence.
Cheyenne Whitebird’s final kill sent Lebanon, last year’s state runner-up, back to the tournament.
The Warriors were dealt a major blow in September when star hitter/blocker Lauren Christie tore her ACL in the Mid-Willamette Conference opener. Christie, a senior, was a first-team all-state pick in 2016.
“We had a huge injury so we didn’t really know what our season was going to look like,” Swanson said. “These girls have come together and done some great things. I couldn’t be happier, and this might be one of the most memorable teams because I don’t know if anyone really saw us getting there.”
Lebanon fell behind 7-4 in the opening set before Wessel stopped the bleeding with a kill. Nicole Christie recorded a pair of kills as the Warriors grabbed their first lead at 11-10.
The Falcons erased a three-point deficit to go back in front at 21-20 following a Lebanon attack error. After the hosts recovered to pull even at 23, the Falcons closed out the set with kills from Maddie Hansen and Sarah Wease.
The Warriors nearly squandered another lead in the second, allowing La Salle to tie it after trailing 24-21. A Wessel kill put the hosts back in front, and Lebanon survived when a Hansen attack went straight into the net.
Trupka paced the offense in the second set as Lebanon overcame an early hole.