CAMAS -- The Camas volleyball team is grateful for everything the Papermakers went through Wednesday night at the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League district final.
Of course, they are thrilled with winning the title in their first season as a Class 4A program.
More importantly for the Papermakers, they had to battle for this title. Union, which finished second to Papermakers in the regular season but never came close to beating them, had no intention of going away quietly.
Union took Game 1.
Camas then gave back the momentum it had gained in Games 2 and 3 when Union rolled late in Game 4. The Titans also jumped out to an early lead in the decisive game.
Camas had a solution to every problem, though, taking the title 3-2. Scores were 17-25, 25-13, 25-23, 19-25, 15-10.
"It was a great test to get us ready," said Camas setter Abbie Younkin, who had 43 assists, referring to the upcoming bi-district tournament and then, the Papermakers expect, a trip to the state tournament.
"It definitely made us a stronger team and brought us closer together," added Lauren Harris, who had the winning kill in Game 5, setting off a celebration.
Union's Rhiannon Morfin had four kills in a row to begin the fifth game, giving the Titans a 4-2 advantage.
Camas kept it close, though, and took the lead for good on a kill from Natalia Zea to make it 9-8. That was in the middle of a 6-0 run for Camas, which cruised from there. Zea had three of her eight kills in that final game.
"It was definitely very tough. We both wanted it," she said. "They wanted it more than we did in the beginning. That kind of shook us. It definitely helped when we started talking. Once we started talking, we were unstoppable."
Union coach Josh Kreunen was upbeat, even in defeat.
"That was quite the battle. It was great for our team," Kreunen said. "Even to hang with them and battle with them, that puts us right up there with the top teams in the state. Camas is a legit top-five team in the state."
While the Titans were satisfied with their effort, the Papermakers were appreciative of the challenge.
"We haven't been tested like that since Prairie, and that was in early September," Camas coach Julie Nidick said, referring to the 3A GSHL champion that beat Camas in a five-game match. "It's always nice to have to fight for it. When it comes too easy, you don't learn how to do that."
Brindl Langley and Harris each had 13 kills to lead the Papermakers. Langley had five of her kills in Game 3. Lauren Neff and Zea each had eight kills.
Megan LaFond led Union with 14 kills. Morfin finished with 12. Vanessa Muckerheide owned the net in Game 4. She had five of her eight kills in the game, along with three blocks. Setter Sammy Savage had 39 assists for the Titans.
Both teams have clinched spots to this weekend's bi-district tournament to try to get to state.
Younkin said the Papermakers have the talent to go a long way in November.
"We can win state," she said. "If we stick together and stay positive, we can do anything."
They stuck together Wednesday, rallying a few times to clam a 4A district title. rally to win a few times to claim a district title.