There are a lot of good teams out there, but winning a state championship is something rare and special. To repeat as state champion is spectacular and suggests your program is really doing something right. To make a run at a “three-peat?” Well, considering the rate of churn between graduations and transfers, that’s history making. The Cascade Christian Challengers volleyball program is that good. Only Santiam Christian- another outstanding program- stood in the way of a third straight Oregon 3A title.
Far West League Coach of the Year Rob Kleker had a formidable nucleus around which to build a team. Caroline McMahon (1st team), Kaylee Cannon (2nd team), and Taylor Cave (3rd team) all received all-state recognition. McMahon- the Oregon 3A Player of the Year in 2017- was Far West League Player of the Year. She was a first team all-conference selection, along with Cannon and Cave. Junior Olivia Borg made second team all-conference, and Hannah Stanfield was an honorable mention.
With a shake-up of leagues and classifications, the 2018 Challengers had a new arch-rival to keep them on their toes. For much of the league schedule, the South Umpqua Lancers owned first place, having defeated Cascade the first two teams they faced each other, once in a non-league match. The defending state champs returned the favor with wins in a tournament and in league. As the two finished the regular season with identical 9-1 records, they tangled once again in a league playoff, that the Challengers won 3-2. Cascade Christian cruised past Rainier, before defeating Burns and Blanchet at the state tournament.
Santiam Christian fought their way past Cascade 3-1 to win their third 3A championship since the 2013-14 season. The Eagles had no seniors on their championship winning team. While the Challengers lose McMahon, Cannon, and powerful middle blocker Gabi Burton to graduation, they’ll return with Cave, Borg, Stanfield, Maddie Schwartz, Kara Palmer, Janie Kenaston, Ellie Hagloch and Ali Modrell who have varsity experience. Six JV players should look to become part of the varsity picture, plus there’s a nice crop of incoming freshman to re-stock the program as well.