Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I'd do a little trick-or-treating of my own. There's no candy involved, however, mostly because I have a parental weakness for dipping into my kids' stash and there's simply none left to dole out.
Even so, here's a little twist on the spooktacular sports scene here in the Medford area.
TREAT: The winning vibes out on the pitch by some of the state's top soccer teams, which happen to reside here.
Nowhere is that more evident than at St. Mary's High in Medford. A year after both Crusader programs played for the Class 3A/2A/1A state title, the boys and girls are back at it again.
The St. Mary's boys sit atop the power rankings with an 11-1 record and stand second in District 3 play at 6-1 behind Creswell (8-3-1, 7-0 Dist. 3). The Crusaders have outscored opponents by a whopping 78-7 margin after wrapping up the regular season Saturday with seven goals from senior Reid Arne during a 16-1 triumph over Canyonville Christian Academy.
The Crusader girls stand second in the 3A/2A/1A power rankings despite posting an undefeated regular season at 12-0-1 that includes a win over the No. 1 squad — and last year's finals foe — Catlin Gabel. St. Mary's went 7-0 in District 4 play and has been equally impressive on the pitch with a 49-8 edge in scoring that likely could be greater were it not for head coach Dave Potter showing mercy over lesser squads. Senior Anna Thorndike is a marvel to watch with her deft footwork.
At the Class 6A level, North Medford's girls soccer team has provided a unique blend of veterans and newcomers and head coach Rich Garcia has made it all mesh to the tune of an undefeated season (12-0-2) and second straight Southern Oregon Hybrid championship. Senior captains Sarah Chambers, Becca Allen, Alesha Major and Amber Black have provided the foundation that has gotten a boost from the play of sophomores Amanda Hisey and McKensie Ragan, among others.
On the 6A boys side, South Medford (ranked eighth at 10-1-3) and North Medford (13th at 9-4) have enjoyed similar team depth as the Black Tornado girls, while the Phoenix boys (9-3-1) are ranked No. 2 in the 4A power rankings following Monday's 2-0 league playoff win over Klamath Union for the Skyline Conference's top seed to state.
The Cascade Christian girls team (6-6-1) is another that has a chance to break into the top 10 in the power rankings. It is 11th and plays at No. 10 Glide today.
TRICK: The Class 6A volleyball state playoff brackets are out and the names on one side of the bracketing are pretty familiar. In an odd quirk of fate, all four teams that advanced to Wednesday's first-round games from the Southern Oregon Hybrid are on the same side of the 32-team bracket.
Roseburg (No. 1 seed), North Medford (No. 4) and South Medford (No. 6) are in the same lower eight-team quadrant, with Grants Pass (No. 8) in the upper eight-team quadrant.
Wins by the Indians and Black Tornado Wednesday would set up a second-round match Saturday between the two squads for the right to advance to the eight-team state tournament.
TRICK AND TREAT: The proximity between Ashland and Eagle Point at the 5A level and St. Mary's and Cascade Christian at the 3A level have created intriguing matchups, but the volleyball programs provided a roller-coaster ride this season when it came to the rivalries.
The Eagles stormed out of the gate with a 3-2 win over Ashland in 5A SOH play and a 2-1 triumph when the teams matched up at the Rogue Valley Classic. Ashland regrouped to take a 3-1 win in the second league matchup and followed up days later with a 2-0 win when the teams met at the Grizzly Tournament.
With a conference championship on the line last Thursday, Ashland's Cassie Hall stepped up with 40 assists and a key kill to help the Grizzlies gain the tiebreaker with a 25-19, 25-27, 25-23, 25-20 triumph over the Eagles. Ashland's Piper Cantrell (31 digs), Shelby Minor (13 kills) and Megan Rodden (11 kills) did just enough to thwart Eagle Point, which was led by Christine McCready (35 digs, 15 kills) and Carolina Regalado (34 assists).
While that series provided some back-and-forth thrills, the St. Mary's-Cascade Christian duel was largely one-sided until it mattered most Saturday.
The Challengers twice secured 3-1 triumphs over St. Mary's during the regular season en route to an 8-0 run in Southern Cascade Hybrid play. The Crusaders, however, gained the advantage for state seeding Saturday when they pulled off a five-set thriller over their Medford-area foe.
On Saturday, Alexi Provost-Shean (15 blocks, eight kills) and Liz Pentland (11 kills) paved the way for the Crusaders to earn a 25-15, 26-24, 14-25, 22-25, 15-11 triumph. Earlier that day, St. Mary's had to win a tight four-set match against Rogue River to even get another shot at Cascade Christian.
Elise Gardner (16 kills), Meghan Higday (13 kills) and Haley Casebier (41 assists) were driving forces for the Challengers, who unfortunately found the wrong time for uncharacteristic errors.
TRICK: The quirky Class 5A football setup, featuring 16-team North and South divisions, has some pretty good teams squaring off in play-in games Friday when Ashland hosts Crescent Valley and Eagle Point visits Silverton.
The Grizzlies (6-2) are No. 8 in the state's power rankings, while Crescent Valley (5-4) is No. 13. Silverton (7-2) is ninth in the power rankings and the Eagles (4-4) moved up to 14th thanks to a win over Ashland in the regular-season finale two weeks ago.
For further context, in last week's AP Top 10, Silverton was ranked ninth, Ashland 10th, Crescent Valley 11th and Eagle Point 12th. Yeah, no glitches with that format.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry