Burns players celebrate after wrapping up a four-set win over Sutherlin in the 3A volleyball final Saturday night.
Burns players celebrate after wrapping up a four-set win over Sutherlin in the 3A volleyball final Saturday night.

CORVALLIS -- After graduating five players from a team that won the 3A culminating week volleyball tournament in the spring, Burns coach Paula Toney wasn't sure how her team would come together this fall.

The young Hilanders had all the size, athleticism and talent they needed to make a run at the 3A title, it was just a matter of how long it would take for them to gel.

"Probably about halfway through, you could just see they were lighting it up and they were coming on and building a lot of confidence," Toney said.

The pieces fit together nicely, and second-seeded Burns put the final touch on another championship season Saturday, overcoming a slow start to subdue No. 8 Sutherlin 17-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-9 in the final of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 3A tournament at Corvallis High School.

The Hilanders (29-3) finished the season on an 18-game winning streak. Their only losses came against 4A teams Crook County, Baker and Sisters.

It is the eighth official state title for Burns and the seventh under Toney, who has coached the team to 642 wins in 25 seasons. The team's last official titles were 2A championships in 2014 and 2015.

Considering the Hilanders started two freshmen and two sophomores this season, more titles could be on the way in the near future.

"I think we can do great things," said 6-foot-1 sophomore outside hitter Mackenzie King, who had 15 kills and seven aces. "I think we'll be really good."

Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Wright, who had a match-high 17 kills Saturday, raved about her younger teammates.

"The dedication they have and the want to win really is incredible with them," Wright said. "If they put their mind to it, and they put all the skill they have into it, they can do it again."

Sophomore setter Ashley Wright (34 assists), 6-0 freshman middle blockers Akylah Kaino (11 kills, four blocks) and 6-1 freshman middle blocker Caitlyn Horrell (six kills) also came through for the Hilanders under pressure.

The Hilanders started slow against the fired-up Bulldogs (21-6), however. Sutherlin, which lost to Burns 3-0 in the quarterfinals of the 3A culminating week tournament in the spring and 3-2 in a nonleague match Sept. 2, was going for its first title.

Behind junior outside hitter Makayla Murphy, the undersized Bulldogs came out firing and took the first set. Murphy had seven of her team-high 16 kills in the set.

King said the Hilanders needed to adjust to the atmosphere.

"Many of us had played in the culminating week, and this was a bigger gym with many more spectators than we're used to seeing," King said. "I guess that definitely had a toll on us. But I think we did well in coming out strong in the second game and finishing it up."

Said Toney: "I think they were a little nervous. They were struggling a little bit to get into a rhythm."

From there, Burns settled into a groove and overwhelmed the Bulldogs, who do not have a player taller than 5-10.

"We just wanted it so bad that we put it out there on the line for each other," Kaitlyn Wright said. "It's exciting because I've never had a super-tall team. It's a lot of fun."

The Hilanders opened a 10-0 lead in the fourth set behind the serving of junior Macy Temple and the net play of King and Horrell. Temple served the last four points of the match, three on aces.

All but two players -- Kaitlyn Wright and Kaya Dobson -- are eligible to return for Burns next season.

"We have a bunch of young, athletic girls," Toney said. "They're pretty talented right now, so I feel like they can only go up."