Prairie volleyball fights off River

Three tough sets give Falcons 3A district crown

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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The perfect record remains after the Prairie volleyball team played a near-perfect first set Tuesday night in the Class 3A district championship match at Columbia River High School.

The Falcons then survived a strong push from Columbia River to win two close sets, finishing off a sweep for the title. Scores were 25-10, 26-24, 25-23.

"Oh, it's so fun to play with them," Prairie setter Tori Porter said of her teammates. "It's amazing how we can push hard like that to be where we are now, champions."

It is the second consecutive district title for the Falcons.

"I still like the feeling, but it wasn't unexpected," senior Kaitlyn Sitton said. "That's the Prairie way."

Karlee Lubenow had 10 kills, Carissa Campbell had nine, and Sitton and Courtney Atkins finished with seven each, while Porter set them up with 27 assists to lead the Prairie attack.

Campbell saved her top moments for clutch time in Games 2 and 3.

Her kill gave Prairie a 24-20 lead in Game 2 before the Chieftains rallied to tie. Then Campbell got the kill to crush River's momentum. The Falcons got the winning point on the next ball after a Columbia River hitting error.

In Game 3, Campbell had kills to make it 20-19 for Prairie, 21-20, and 23-20.

Again Columbia River rallied to tie.

Sitton responded with a kill and Campbell's ace ended the match, lifting Prairie's record to 15-0 this season.

"To go undefeated my senior year is a gift, to play with the girls I play with," Campbell said.

While the final two sets brought drama, the first was a volleyball clinic. Passing, setting, hitting, and defense. The Falcons were on to start the match, with leads of 10-4 and 20-8.

The highlight of the match for Prairie might have been the final point of that first set. Up by 14 and in no danger of losing, Lubenow still made a diving save some 15 feet behind the service line. The Falcons managed to get the ball back over the net for the point.

Prairie coach Andrea Doerfler said that has been the mentality all season. Up big or trailing, never give up on a ball.

"They come ready to work every single point," she said.

If the Chieftains were stunned by that first game, they did not show it. They trailed for most of the second set, but scored four in a row to tie it 24-24.

Evi Wilson had three crucial kills and Kathine Kofoed had two blocks down the stretch.

Columbia River led much of Game 3 before Prairie took control late. Still, the Chieftains showed resolve, battling to a 23-all tie. Kofoed had another block and a kill during that final push.

"We definitely picked it up," Columbia River coach Moe Melhart said. "But Prairie is a great team. We did our best to hang with them."

Columbia River advanced to the district finals with a 3-0 win over Mountain View earlier in the evening.

Prairie, Columbia River, and Mountain View will represent the GSHL at this weekend's bi-district tournament, vying for spots to the state tournament.