2021 rewind: Looking back at the top sports stories

Courtesy of Becky Gerrard Photography

By Kendrick Murphy

[email protected]

The past year has been a tough ride for high school athletes and parents. Games were canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sports seasons were moved to ensure health and safety protocols were met. 

But through it all, the fall season of 2021 saw a relative return to normalcy with athletes getting full scheduled seasons in and getting back to post-season play. The Sentinel took a look back at the top sports stories of the 2021 year as athletes get ready for a new chapter heading into 2022. 

North Douglas prevails over St. Paul to win state title
By Kendrick Murphy

The fifth-seeded North Douglas Warriors capped off a historic season with a win over the second seed St. Paul Buckaroos in the state title game Saturday evening at Ridgeview High school. Bringing home the first state title in program history. The Warriors defeated St. Paul in four sets and finished their season with an overall record of 27-3. 

“It was a lot of excitement,” said Head Coach Emily Reed “It was just like everything that we had worked so hard for was done. We have the best fans. And we had a lot of people who traveled to that game who have vested interest in our team all year. And so, it was really awesome to have them come out there with us, especially our student section who stands up and screams the whole time. And for them to be out there with us. It was pretty special.” 

Stella Koch would score one more point for St. Paul in the last set as her hit went off the North Douglas block making the score 24-17 with North Douglas only needing one more point for the win. 

On the ensuing play, St. Paul’s hit would go out of bounds securing a win for North Douglas and a euphoric moment for the team and the fans who made the road trip over from Drain. 

“I’m very, very proud,” said Reed. “I’m so proud of those girls and told them that they’ve done something that no one else has ever done at North Douglas. “The 12 of them have something they can say that no other girls in the entire program’s history can ever say that they won a state title.”

Creswell takes home 4th place and Sportsmanship trophy
By Kendrick Murphy

Elation and agony were emotions felt for the Creswell volleyball team during the past weekend. The Bulldogs fought their way through two tough five-set matches against Sutherlin and Catlin Gabel

While neither result favored Creswell they were still able to take home a fourth-place trophy and the Sportsmanship trophy as their season has officially come to an end. 

“I feel like it’s really special for us because we’re a pretty young team,” said Creswell Senior Emme Whitson after the Catlin Gabel game. 

“I just feel very proud of my team for making at least to state that was our goal this whole season was make it to Corvallis. And the fact that we did that is we got a trophy and that’s all we wanted to do.” 

As the result wasn’t what the Bulldogs were hoping for in their final game against Catlin Gabel. Coach Baltrusch still felt very proud of her team for making it to that point. 

“I’m really proud of them that they even made it this far,” said Baltrsuch “They deserved to be here. They were as good as any of the other teams that we’re here.” Baltrusch added “I’m also excited that I have so many young kids coming back next year. We’ll be filling one important starter spot but we’ll be back.”

Lions volleyball clinches Sky-Em title
By Kendrick Murphy

Earlier in the season the Lions had to come back down 2-0 on the road against Siuslaw but would claw their way back to earn their first five-set victory of the season. Last Thursday’s game would be just as close but the stakes would be even higher. 

Cottage Grove hosted Siuslaw on senior night and with a chance to clinch their first league title since 2018. After another five-set classic, the Lions would emerge victoriously and earn the Sky-Em league title.

“I am so proud of them and their ability to stay mentally tough and positive and focus on a team mentality for that game,” said Head Coach Abby Ladd “So it was rewarding to win the game, but also rewarding to see that the things that we had focused on and worked on, come through for us.”

The Vikings were able to score putting pressure on the Lions in the final set as the Lion lead was only one. In the next rally, Arnold would get blocked at the net but the Lions would recover. Kidd was able to set up Arnold one more time who hit the ball off the Siuslaw block for the game-winning point bringing in a 15-13 set win for the Lions. 

“This group of seniors were my first JV team that I coached on my own,” said Ladd “So I’ve been with this group of seniors and all of the other girls on the team since their first day. And so I am just overflowing with joy and pride in how they have grown over the past four years as volleyball players and people.”

CG Cross Country takes third at 4A state championships

By Kendrick Murphy

History was made last Saturday when the Cottage Grove boys cross country team finished with their best place finish since 1975 taking home third. Heavy favorite Siuslaw would finish first with 42 points, Sisters would finish second with 88 points, while Cottage Grove and Valley Catholic tied with 93 points. With the first five finishers for Cottage Grove and Valley Catholic tying points, the tiebreaker went to the next finishers for each team. 

Brennen Murphy and Jace Meyer finishing ahead of the other two Valley Catholic runners. Jayden Owens also finished in the top ten with a 17:09 and Carter Bengston ran the fastest time for freshman at the meet with a 17:11. Other finishers include Ethan Peterson 17:35, Carter Parsons 18:29, Rafael Fields 18:51, Brennen Murphy 19:01, and Jace Meyer 19:02. 

Cottage Grove Boys Cross Country advances to state
By Kendrick Murphy

Cottage Grove cross country battled the other teams in their league last Thursday for the Sky-Em league district championships. The prohibitive favorite on the boy’s side Siuslaw would take care of business holding down first place. But the real intrigue was for the second spot as two teams from each district qualify for the state meet the following Saturday. Marist and Cottage Grove were had battled earlier in the season with both times the Lions getting the best of the Spartans. Thursday would be no different as the Cottage Grove boys team would beat Marist by 20 points to qualify for the state meet on Saturday, Nov. 6. The finishers for the boy’s team included Jayden Owens (17:16), Carter Bengston (17:17), Ethan Peterson (17:51), Carter Parsons (18:29), and Rafael Fields (19:06) rounded out the top five for the boys. On the girl’s side, Marist and Siuslaw went first and second in the team finishes allowing them to qualify for state. Cottage Grove despite some injuries would finish third ahead of Junction City with 80 points. Top finishers for the girl’s team included Bella Keating (22:19), Piper Youngmyer (23:35), Evie Smith (24:15), Helen Leal-Coronel (24:42.10), and Grace Sisson (24:42.50).

Creswell boys take first place at Buldog Invitational

By Kendrick Murphy

The Creswell boys basketball team mojo is at an all-time high right now after taking first place in their home tournament ‘the Bulldog Invitational’ with wins against Monroe (77-42) and Siuslaw (64-58) on back-to-back nights. Also surpassing the best program start in nearly a decade in winning their first seven games in a row beating the previous mark of six and earning a top-four ranking in the state. 

“I’m certainly happy with the start and I think the kids are too,” said Head Coach Jesse Thomas. “Now we’re trying to keep finding things in the areas that we need them to improve on that have shown up consistently in the games.” 

In the championship game against Siuslaw Max Velarde led Creswell in scoring with 14 points while teammates Chase Green and Caleb Lee each added 12, also shooting over 40% from the three-point line. 

“I think the 7-0 start is an awesome accomplishment especially considering the fact we are a pretty young squad,” said Sophomore point guard Chase Green. 

“Beating that mark I know means a lot to our guys. And now we have set the tone for another Creswell team within the next years to beat.” Green added, “Beating Siuslaw really shows our guys can push through adversity and come together. Winning first place shows what this team is capable of and I know we can accomplish bigger things if we continue to play together. Winning it (the first place plaque) in front of the home crowd is just another statement piece and the amount of support the crowd gives us is amazing.”