North Medford had to find another level when trailing in the pivotal third game against cross-town rival South Medford in the Southern Oregon Hybrid volleyball opener Thursday.
The Black Tornado rallied to win the third game and posted a 25-16, 23-25, 25-23, 25-14 victory in front of a large, loud, spirited crowd at the North Medford gym.
After the teams split the opening two sets, South took a 21-15 lead in the third game. But Taylor Otoski turned the tide back in the Black Tornado's favor by serving five straight points to cut the deficit to 21-20 and North prevailed from there.
"Our aggressive serving changed things and forced them out of system," said North Medford coach Erika Wright. "It gave us some momentum going into the fourth set."
South Medford coach Sarah Costa thought the earlier games might have taken their toll on the Panthers.
"My girls played with heart but in the third set we just lost steam," said Costa. "We put so much energy into the first two games."
Emily Carter demonstrated good instincts and court awareness for North. The sophomore outside hitter excelled with a team-high 11 aces and was perfect on all 19 serves, including two aces.
"(Carter) was really steady and consistent in everything she was doing," said Wright. "She does the little things well. She understands our defensive system and is always where she's supposed to be."
Senior libero Katy Carter — Emily's older sister — led North with 19 digs, senior hitter Keisha Williams provided eight kills and senior middle blocker Elle Bixler contributed five kills and had the team's highest hitting percentage.
"We struggled with our ball control at times," said Wright, "but when (Bixler) did get the ball she tried to do something with it."
Clair Sporer and Rylee Houck, a transfer from North Medford, sparked the Panther net play with eight kills each. Grace Sporer had 22 digs and Kelsey Bartlett dished out 16 assists for South.
"I liked our perseverance," said Wright. "In Game 3, we struggled early but the girls turned it around and decided they were going to win. In Game 4, we really went out and showed that."
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480, or email firstname.lastname@example.org