North Medford charged into the finals of the 22nd annual Rogue Valley Classic volleyball tournament for the first time since 2001.

North Medford charged into the finals of the 22nd annual Rogue Valley Classic volleyball tournament for the first time since 2001.

With seven of the top 10 Class 6A schools in the state in the 24-team event, the Black Tornado had some momentum advancing into the title round.

But top-ranked Jesuit of Portland proved too much for North in the championship match at the Black Tornado gym, defeating North, 25-13, 25-21, to capture its first RV Classic championship.

The Crusaders used effective front-line play from senior outside hitters Erin Kilroy and Elizabeth Dick and freshman middle blocker Elizabeth Brenner to thwart North's attack. Also senior libero Christa Grauert played stellar defense and hurt the Black Tornado from the serving line.

"We came out aggressive," said Kilroy, who had nine kills and eight blocks against North. "We did a great job digging the ball and had some key blocks."

In the opener, North trailed just 10-9 before Jesuit finished off the game on the serving rotations from Haley Feest, Grauert and Dick, who served out the last six points.

North seized the momentum midway through Game 2. The Black Tornado built an 18-12 advantage before Grauert stepped to the line and served points 14 through 21 to put the Crusaders ahead 21-18.

"The only thing I was thinking about was serving deep," Grauert said. "Teams have difficulty passing balls that are in on their chest."

Brenner finished off the match on a kill off North's block.

"We just have a lot of weapons and the kids played great defense," said veteran Jesuit coach Teresa Zimmerlee, who is in her 15th-year.

North's difficulty on serve receive and Jesuit's blocking were the key factors in the championship match.

"The blocking problem is directly related to the serve receive problem," North Medford coach Ron Beick said. "We had two breakdowns in each game that allowed them to pull away. I'm impressed with how athletic and quick they are."

Outside hitter Whitney Hodnett excelled for North throughout the tournament. Hodnett registered a team high 24 kills and 31 digs. In the finals, Black Tornado senior middle blockers Kyle Jolley and Megan Bartling combined for eight kills, while Hodnett added eight digs and Bartling four blocks.

"Our passing is something we have to work on," said the senior captain Hodnett. "Ball control is the element you need to do anything.

"You have to give them credit," added Hodnett. "They served tough and they are big and strong. This is a stepping stone for what we want to do a month from now."

Beick also had praise for senior Natalie Lorenz, who has made the adjustment to a single setter alignment from North's dual setter offense in the past.

"(Lorenz) had a lot of pressure because of the size of the Jesuit block," said Beick. "She moved the ball around good."

North Medford began the 16-team gold championship bracket with a 25-16, 25-21 win over Canby. Then the Black Tornado defeated West Salem, 25-20, 25-19, in the quarterfinals and dismantled Southridge, 25-14, 25-13 to reach the finals.

"We had a great tournament overall," Beick said. "We really sustained our defensive play and attacking ability. We played at a consistent level. Jesuit was just the best team at this point."

Other local teams to advance into the gold bracket were Cascade Christian and Ashland.

The Challengers lost an opening round match to West Linn, then defeated Thurston before losing to Canby in the silver division semifinals.

Ashland won the silver division and a ninth place overall finish in the tournament. The Grizzlies beat Canby for the division title, 25-21, 20-25, 15-10.

South Medford won the bronze division with a 25-18, 25-22 win over Westview. South, which finished third in pool play, defeated Grants Pass 25-22, 25-19 in the quarterfinals and Silverton, 20-25, 28-26, 15-12 in the semifinals.

Crater got past Hidden Valley, 25-22, 25-23, in the bronze bracket before losing to Westview.

Grants Pass finished 21st with the bronze bracket consolation victory. The Cavemen defeated Eagle Point in the semifinals, 25-20, 25-18, then beat Hidden Valley in the consolation finals. The Mustangs defeated Mazama in the consolation semifinals.

Reach sports reporter Frank Silow at 776-4480 or e-mail fsilow@mailtribune.com