As the defending Class 3A state champion, Cascade Christian has earned a name for itself as a powerhouse among small-school volleyball programs.
And after nearly winning the Rogue Valley Classic on Saturday at North Medford High, the Challengers served notice that they’re able to hang with the big schools as well.
Bend defeated Cascade Christian 25-16, 18-25, 15-6 in the tournament’s championship match, ending a streak of eight straight wins to open the season.
“Ultimately, (Bend) had a little more gas in the tank at the end of the day,” Challengers coach Rob Kleker said. “It was a lot of fun but the difference was they had a little more gas in the tank and were able to finish us off.”
Alyssa Vaughn put down 17 kills, 15 in the first two sets, to spark the offense in the finale.
“She was everywhere,” Kleker said. “She definitely found her groove on offense and, really, she did it throughout the day. She really showed what she could do in that championship match.”
Caroline McMahon added six kills and 12 digs, and Aubrey Kievit chipped in 15 digs against Bend, which began to wear down Cascade Christian in the second game.
“We hit a wall at the end of that one,” Kleker said. “We had a 23-11 lead, then we just kind of let them hang around until we finished that set off.”
“We started making a few mental mistakes and usually when that happens, passing is the first thing to go,” he added. “We started having difficulty passing the ball and they capitalized on it.”
The Challengers beat McNary 25-20, 25-19 in the opening round of the gold bracket, then followed with a 25-19, 25-14 victory over host North Medford. Trailing 20-14 in Game 1 against the Black Tornado, McMahon served 11 straight points, including six aces, to spark a huge comeback.
“They’d be good players at any level, so we enjoy playing them,” North coach Malcolm Munson said of Cascade Christian.
North reached the semifinals by downing Churchill 25-21, 23-25, 25-9. In pool play, the Black Tornado finished 6-0, sweeping Crook County, Phoenix and West Salem.
Standing out for North (9-5) was the back line of defense, which included excellent passing and serving by specialists Kyleigh Lopez, Ella Ivens and Allie Hertager.
Crater took first place in its pool, sweeping all six games it played against Grants Pass, Ridgeview and Foothills, before losing in the opening round of the championship bracket, 25-18, 25-23 to Crook County. Nehkyah Ellis had seven kills and Sydney Gray added six kills for the Comets (4-2).
South Medford lost 27-25, 25-16 to Mountain View in the opening round of the silver bracket. Chanel Groom and Catherine Rostel had five kills apiece and Megan Davis added eight assists for the Panthers (2-7), who dropped their fourth straight match.
Phoenix lost 25-21, 25-10 to Grants Pass in the opening round of the silver bracket. Alexis Smith had three kills and two blocks and Sofia Tringolo added 10 assists to pace the Pirates (4-5).
BROOKINGS-HARBOR TOURNAMENT: At Brookings-Harbor, Eagle Point took second place in the tournament, falling to University Prep of Redding, California, 25-19, 25-22.
The Eagles (5-4) edged North Valley 26-24, 25-27, 15-11 to reach the championship round.
In the opening round of bracket play, Eagle Point swept host Brookings 25-12, 25-13.