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Champions of the decade: A decade of dominance for Santiam Christian volleyball

Champions of the decade: A decade of dominance for Santiam Christian volleyball

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It was a dominant decade for Santiam Christian volleyball, with 3A state championships at each end of the 10-year span and four more in between.

The Eagles made it back-to-back titles in 2010, then went on to win three more in 2012, 2013 and 2014 under longtime head coach Kim McLain. The program then got two more with Kelli Fitzpatrick as coach in 2018 and 2019.

After dropping one combined set in six state tournament matches the previous two seasons, Santiam Christian had to rally from a 2-1 set deficit in 2014 to beat Creswell in five at Lane Community College. The two sets the Bulldogs took were the only all season that the Eagles allowed to a 3A opponent.

Santiam Christian finished the season 28-2 with losses only to 5A Sandy and 6A state runner-up Central Catholic.

“We are fighters and we knew we had come back from worse holes before,” said Victoria Schroeder, her team’s player of the championship match. “We knew if we kept battling and didn’t get down that we could come back and win it.”

McLain was hired as Corban University’s head coach in November 2014 after leading the Eagles to five state titles in six years and six state championships in 15 years at Santiam Christian.

With Fitzpatrick at the helm, the program continued what is now a 17-year streak of reaching at least the state quarterfinals. The school has made the semifinals 14 times in that stretch.

The Eagles finished third at state in 2015 and lost its two matches the following fall before returning to the championship match in 2017, losing in five to Cascade Christian, which won its second straight title.

But it wouldn’t be three for the Crusaders, as Santiam Christian won the title-game rematch, at Forest Grove High School, in four sets.

The Eagles were a dominant squad with a veteran lineup in 2019.

Santiam Christian went undefeated, sweeping through three state matches behind first team all-tournament selections Kassie Staton, a senior, and junior Emily Bourne. Lauryn Penner and Josie Risinger, both seniors, were named to the second team.

The Eagles beat Creswell, a league rival, in three sets for the championship after Creswell forced them to five less than three weeks earlier.

Before the tournament, SC defeated many of the other top 3A teams in the state as well as 6A schools Clackamas, Lakeridge and Sandy and 5A La Salle, all state playoff teams. La Salle reached the 5A quarterfinals.

The Eagles lost seven sets all season.

“We just work really well together. It's just awesome to be fluid and work well and be loud,” Risinger said. “We built off of last year. We had to overcome some injuries, and younger players stepped up.”

Santiam Christian displayed its talent throughout the decade with 11 different players accounting for 17 total first-team all-state tournament selections.

Sara Almen and Anna Wruck, two of the numerous NCAA Division I players the program has produced the past two decades, repeated their first-team selections in 2010. Almen made the all-tournament first team against as a senior in 2011.

Madison McLain, Maddy Gravley, Rebeka Preston, Bourne and Staton were all first-team picks twice in the decade. McLain and Preston were both four-time all-tournament selections. The Eagles also had a total of 14 second-team selections in that time frame.

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