Ashland’s volleyball program had quite a run brewing from 2005-09, securing top-four state trophies in all five seasons.
CENTRAL POINT — Who could blame the Crater volleyball players for being emotional?
They'd just dispatched South Medford in a gritty, tense, five-set thriller Tuesday, and it marked the Comets' first league conference victory in nearly three years.
"Everybody was jumping up and down and screaming, and I think a few people were crying," said Crater coach Jen Mendenhall of the aftermath of the 13-25, 25-23, 26-24, 23-25, 15-13 Southern Oregon Hybrid victory.
"It was very emotional and people were super excited and kind of forgot what they were doing," she said.
She had to gather her players and calm them down so they could "clap hands" and congratulate South Medford for a scintillating battle.
Not since Crater was a Class 5A team playing in the Southern Sky Conference had it won a league match.
None of the five current seniors were on that team, meaning this was their first league victory wearing school colors.
Crater last captured a conference match on Oct. 27, 2009, sweeping Eagle Point.
Since then, it had dropped 18 straight, including 0-8 SOH records the past two seasons.
The emotion flowed freely for that reason and because the Comets seemed to expend every ounce of energy at their disposal.
"I don't know if we've fought back that hard in any match since I've been here," said Mendenhall, in her second year.
When it couldn't put the match away in Game 4, Crater (3-4, 1-1 SOH) jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the rubber game.
"Then we kind of got in a lull," said Mendenhall. "We got ahead of ourselves. We were too excited about being that much ahead in that fifth game."
South Medford (1-2, 0-2 SOH) rallied to tie it at 12-12. With no timeouts left, Mendenhall implored her kids to play one point at a time. It helped them get back "in the moment," she said, and they closed out the match.
Freshman outside Destiny Fahndrich ignited the Comets in the third game with a service run of a half-dozen points.
Senior libero Maddie Layton provided consistent passing throughout, and sophomore defensive specialist Kelsey Strouse was sterling in the back row.
Katie Britton, a senior outside, produced five aces and led the Comets in kills, while middles Megan Funderburk, a junior, and sophomore Paige Berriochoa were steady on the block.
ROSEBURG 3, NORTH MEDFORD 0 — North Medford's Emily Carter had 10 kills, Ashley Smith 14 digs and Telsche Munson seven digs and 21 assists in the Black Tornado's 25-17, 25-17, 25-22 loss in Southern Oregon Hybrid play.
Elle Bixler added five kills for North Medford, which struggled with service errors.
The Black Tornado (2-1, 1-1 SOH) led 21-17 in the third set before the Indians (5-2, 1-0 SOH) rallied.
PHOENIX 3, ST. MARY'S 0 — Adriana Mereida-Ford went 18-for-19 from the service line and knocked in seven aces to lead hot-serving Phoenix to a 25-18, 25-12, 25-18 nonleague win at the St. Mary's gym.
As a team, the Pirates (1-0) were 68-for-72 with 12 aces.
Haleigh Wagman recorded 11 kills and Ashlyn Flynn was 15-for-15 serving with 15 assists.
For St. Mary's (3-4), sophomore middle Dakota Rothfus had a good all-around match with three kills, seven service points and five digs. The Crusaders received five kills and five digs from outside hitter Nina Console and setter Maddy Gregg had eight service points and 15 assists.
GLIDE 3, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 1 — At Glide, strong defensive play by Glide contributed to a 19-25, 25-22, 25-9, 25-21 nonconference victory.
The Challengers (1-2) were led by junior outside Karlee Britton with nine kills and Elise Gardner, a senior outside, with six kills. Mackenzie Kelton registered four aces for Cascade Christian.
SUTHERLIN 3, ROGUE RIVER 0 — At Sutherlin, winless Rogue River struggled passing in a 25-15, 25-7, 25-18 loss to undefeated Sutherlin (5-0).
The Chieftains (0-6) are rebuilding after losing seven of their top nine players in the rotation from last year's squad.