TURNER – The play of Alyssa St. Peter mirrors what Cascade High School’s volleyball team has done this season.
The senior has seemingly always been there as a starting middle blocker through the recent run of success, but she is only now becoming a star.
It mirrors how Cascade was overlooked much of this season and is now proving it is a team to be reckoned with.
The 5-foot-11 St. Peter had 17 kills – those coming from nearly everywhere on the court – 15 digs and three aces in Thursday’s 3-0 sweep of Stayton.
“She always peaks at the end,” Cascade coach Cristina Williams said. “That’s exactly what she’s doing right now. She’s peaking and she’s amazing. She’s really shining through. She’s stepping up, being the leader.”
As with St. Peter’s rapid improvement, so too have the Cougars gotten stronger as the season progressed.
Cascade clinched at least a share of its third consecutive Oregon West Conference championship by improving to 8-1 in league with a 25-17, 25-16, 25-10 win against rival Stayton on Thursday night.
“It’s pretty awesome,” St. Peter said. “Not many people even get to see one league championship in their high school career, and to have three, that’s pretty amazing. I’m super proud of my team all three years.”
A Cascade (10-4) team that came into Thursday’s match No. 15 in the OSAA’s power rankings can clinch the outright league championship – and the right to host a state playoff match – when they play Tuesday at North Marion.
The Cougars had a glaring need for hitters – as well as at nearly every other position – this season.
The development of players with not much varsity experience such as setter Meriah Kindell, defensive specialist Marina Carroll, middle blocker Cassie Smock and outside hitter Tori Lewis has been key to Cascade continuing its run at the top of the Oregon West.
“Our actions prove that we are a good team and can come back stronger even losing some amazing seniors last year,” said senior outside hitter Lauren Hadley, who had 15 digs. I think it feels good that everyone knows at Cascade that we can come back from something like that. It’s just a nice feeling to know that we have those younger kids coming up each year that each year step up as seniors and lead this team.”
Cascade was overlooked early this season specifically because it didn’t have the experience at the key positions, much as how St. Peter was overlooked as a volleyball player.
An all-state outfielder in softball and a standout basketball player – she has never played club volleyball – and thus is overlooked at the sport.
Her athletic ability and determination to win carried her to the highest levels as a player, much as how Cascade’s overlooked younger players have carried the team to another league title.
“I like that because I want them to underestimate us and not see what we’re made out of,” Williams said. “We have a lot of girls that they’re not those big hitters that we had last year, but they work hard and they’re great.
“The girls get along really well this year, and that was the one thing that they really wanted to work on is just being a team and a family, and that’s what we’ve kind of strived for.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler
Cascade d. Stayton 3-0
Set scores: 25-17, 25-16, 25-10
Kills- Anderson (S) 8; St. Peter (C) 17. Digs- St. Peter (C) 15, Hadley (C) 15. Blocks- Anderson (S) 2, Smock (C) 2. Assists- Carroll (C) 25. Aces- Keim (S) 2; St. Peter (C) 3.