The length of the road back to the top was part of what made it so good to finally get back there.
When West Salem High School’s volleyball team last won a conference championship – back in 2007 – most of its current players were in third grade.
And it certainly wasn’t easy to win one this time, either.
West Salem came back from a 2-1 deficit to McNary on Thursday night in the Greater Valley Conference finale to win 25-21, 16-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-9 and clinch the outright conference championship.
The Titans finish the regular season 18-3 overall and more importantly 15-1 in the GVC.
“It means so much,” West Salem junior Paige Whipple said. “Going into the season that was like our biggest goal and to accomplish it just means the world. Going into the playoffs it puts us in a really good spot.”
The Titans are set up well for the postseason.
West Salem finishes the regular season No. 7 in the OSAA’s power rankings with its fourth straight win and next hosts a team to be determined in the Oct. 28 first round of the OSAA Class 6A state playoffs.
There are other hurdles to get over to go before the team can place in state: The last time West Salem won a game in the state playoffs was 2006.
Winning a conference championship was a good start.
“That’s what their first goal was to accomplish,” West Salem coach Katie Herber said. “The second goal to accomplish is to place in state. It gives them some satisfaction moving forward, but they still need to accomplish their goals.”
McNary had the opportunity to make it a co-league championship had the Celtics beat West Salem – which they did 3-1 when the teams played Sept. 8.
But Thursday’s loss snaps the Celtics’ seven-game winning streak to finish the regular season 19-6 overall and 13-3 and in third place in the GVC.
West Salem started the match well and scored the final four points to win the first set, including an ace by Ashley Moisan on set point.
McNary did a better job keeping rallying to keep points going in the second set and leading 13-12 went on a 7-0 run for a lead the Celtics would never relinquish.
In the third set McNary put up an imposing block to combat Whipple’s offense and slow the West Salem attack. Trailing 22-20, McNary scored five straight points to win and go up 2-1.
“Honestly I think they were just setting up on me and I just had to find a way to get around them,” said Whipple, who finished with 34 kills. “They definitely were out to block me. They did. They got me a few times, but I think I did good to push through.”
With the fourth set tied at 23, West Salem scored the final two points to keep the match going.
The Celtics tied the fifth set at 4 with a Shaylee Williams block, but West Salem went on a 5-0 run – including two blocks and a kill by Whipple – to take a big lead and Kasey Campbell scored a kill on match point to win 15-9.
“They had a lot of fight in them and they have quite a bit of composure in them and they’ve proven that throughout the year,” Herber said. “They’ve been down sets and they’ve been able to pull them out by coming back and just digging in and doing what we need to do.
“Tonight we lost a little bit of that composure, we got into our heads a little bit and we were able to pull it together.”
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West Salem d. McNary 3-2
At West Salem
Set scores: 25-21, 16-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-9
Kills- Hayes (M) 10, Whipple (WS) 34. Digs- Campbell (WS) 16. Blocks- Hayes (M) 3, Strand (M) 3, Smith (WS) 4. Assists- Kelly (WS) 53.