SUTHERLIN — Harrisburg pushed Sutherlin to the limit in their Class 3A first-round volleyball match on Saturday night at the Dog Pound.
The ninth-seeded Eagles, down two sets to none, had the No. 8 Bulldogs reeling after winning the third and fourth games but Sutherlin pulled out the deciding fifth set to advance to the state tournament.
Scores were 25-16, 25-14, 19-25, 14-25, 15-10.
“I’m too old for this,” Sutherlin coach Kathy Rice said afterwards with a smile. “Credit to them (the Eagles), they’re definitely a team that fights. I told our girls after the second set that team isn’t done. We started to look scared.”
The Bulldogs (18-9) will face No. 1 Santiam Christian (23-0) at 1:15 p.m. on Friday in a quarterfinal match at Forest Grove High School.
Santiam Christian defeated No. 16 Warrenton 25-9, 25-11, 25-11 on Saturday.
“I’m tired, but proud,” said Sutherlin senior outside hitter Alyssa Fox, who finished with 21 kills and 28 digs. “Both teams wanted it so bad. It’s very exciting (going to the state tournament). I wouldn’t want to go with any other team.”
“It’s a big win,” added Sutherlin senior middle blocker Carmen Ganger. “It’s my senior year ... it’s crazy I get to go to state in volleyball. It feels so good.”
Sutherlin will be making its first state tournament appearance since 2015, when it was in 4A.
The Bulldogs looked in good position to sweep the match after winning the first two sets fairly easily.
But Harrisburg (15-14) came alive in the third set and played its best volleyball, and continued that momentum into the fourth set.
“We let them think they could play with us and they kept going,” Ganger said. “Their crowd was behind them.”
Rice’s main message to her club with the deciding set coming up: Trust each other.
Sutherlin got some key kills from Fox and sophomore Kaybie Rutledge in the fifth set. Rutledge scored the Bulldogs’ last two points with kills.
“I wasn’t worried (heading into the fifth set),” Fox said. “I believed in us and knew we could do it.”
Ganger had seven kills, four aces and three blocks in the match. Tianna Murphy contributed 21 assists and nine digs, Rutledge had six kills, 10 digs and two blocks, and freshman Makayla Murphy added 16 assists, seven kills, seven digs and two aces.
Ganger said Fox has been the difference-maker this season.
“She’s made a huge impact,” Ganger said of the transfer from Roseburg. “She’s good all-around and helps pick us up.”
Now the Bulldogs will prepare for Santiam Christian, which has appeared in the last two state championship matches — winning last year.
“I think we can play with them,” Ganger said.