Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
South Medford used its home-court advantage and swept Crater in three games during Southern Oregon Hybrid volleyball Tuesday, but the Comets were no pushovers.
Crater led each game on several occasions, but its own mistakes and superb floor coverage by the Panthers helped South Medford notch its first win of the season, 25-23, 27-25, 25-20.
Crater (0-2 SOH) led the first game 21-15 and wasn't slowing down before South Medford senior libero Grace Sporer snatched the Comets' momentum with a big kill. The Panthers went on to score eight unanswered points.
Sporer put down four additional kills during the course of the match and rooted up 25 digs. Her twin sister, senior outside hitter Claire, tallied 10 kills and 18 digs.
Panther Rylee Houck, a 5-foot-10 senior, recorded eight kills.
"They just jump through the gym," said South Medford head coach Sarah Costa, of Houck and Claire Sporer, who is one inch taller.
Sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Falls logged five kills for the Panthers (1-1 SOH), with setters Kelsey Bartlett, a sophomore, and senior Liz Devaughn dishing out 16 and 12 assists, respectively.
"I feel like the team has a really strong cohesiveness ... we are playing as a unit this year, not as individuals," said Costa, in her sixth year. "We're really trying to focus on each individual set."
Comet standouts included junior middle blocker Paige Berriochoa, who served six aces during the match.
Sophomore outside hitter Destiny Fahndrich had seven kills, and junior outside and right-side hitter Kelsey Strouse added six kills. Junior setter Nicole Davis had registered assists.
"It was a huge improvement from last week for us," said third-year Crater head coach Jen Mendenhall. "Our communication, teamwork, ball control, and finishing plays ... we keep getting better and that's all you can ask for."
Senior libero Kelli Gray played a tough game for Crater, hitting the deck plenty of times for her 34 digs.
The Comets host Roseburg on Thursday.
"We definitely could have played a lot better than that," said Houck. "I don't think they earned as many points as we gave them."
"We definitely didn't play as good as we could have ... Grants Pass, I'm excited," added Claire Sporer, referring to South Medford's opponent Thursday.
Not being satisfied with less-than-peak play is a good sign, said Costa.
"This is really what the team expects," she said. "They are all really confident that we can succeed working together."
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org