Creswell — Just when you thought the 3A volleyball landscape was starting to take shape a bit, three teams managed to screw it all up again with their performances on Thursday. Those teams: Defending 3A Champion #2 Burns, #4 Creswell, and #5 Sutherlin. Before the meet, I would’ve put money on the idea that it was three way drag race between Burns, Santiam Christian, and highly underrated Horizon Christian for the state title. I expected Burns to handle both Sutherlin and Creswell comfortably, but I was dead wrong and it makes everything more complex.
At times, all three of these teams could’ve made the argument that they should be considered a favorite for the 3A state title. Creswell and Sutherlin tout more experienced rosters than Burns, with Creswell having the edge between those two in that category. On the court, all three teams looked shaky and rusty, suffering from common tactical issues and lack of communication. Overall, Creswell looked like the best team despite losing 3-1 to Burns, as their issues were more on the note of falling behind early, long cold streaks, and tactical errors. However, on the court, Creswell had the best chemistry and communication on Thursday, which can make up for part of their issues. Against Burns though, their talent gap alone is able to punish opponents even on their worst days. Creswell then went out and swept Sutherlin handily 25-14, 25-15, 25-16 to cap the evening, showing their muscle and potential in the 3A ranks. If Creswell can get off to better starts and clean up their game a bit, there’s no doubt they’ll be competing for the state title.
Sutherlin was in the middle, showing some good chemistry and decent communication, but they struggled tactically against Burns and Creswell. The crazy part? They still took Burns to five sets and almost beat the defending state champions. Then, the go out against Creswell and landed completely flat, getting handily swept by the Bulldogs to cap a bipolar performance for Sutherlin. So what can I draw? They need to clean up their performance on the floor, find consistency in their game, and ultimately put it all together in a championship combination. Sutherlin is capable of competing for a state title, but right now they won’t be unless they knock off the rust or jitters and find that championship formula. The talent is there, but the sample size shows that their roadmap begins on the court and it starts now.
In an extremely rare instance, I find myself saying that the team that went undefeated in the three-way is the one who looked the worst. Burns is talented, has great coaching, and their volleyball IQ is among the highest in 3A. However, Thursday showed the side of Burns that isn’t one we’re used to seeing, the struggling, lost side of the Highlanders. The Thursday edition showed a team struggling to communicate and execute on the floor, a team that lacked chemistry for long runs at a time, and one that is completely vulnerable to be beat on any given night. Shedding all those talented seniors was a huge transition for Burns, and that’s where the criticism goes down a notch, but this isn’t the team that we had in the Spring. Are the expectations still to win a 3A title? You better bet it is. Can they do it? I believe in them. However, the work is cut out for Burns to get back to that championship form and thankfully for them, Sutherlin, and Creswell, we have a long way to go in the season.