The South Medford volleyball team has improved significantly since the first time it faced crosstown rival North Medford, but after all was said and done Thursday night, the outcome of the teams’ second and final meeting of the season was largely the same.
North fended off a spirited effort by visiting South, prevailing 25-13, 25-22, 25-22 in the Southwestern Conference match.
Coming off a tough loss last week at Roseburg, the Black Tornado (13-6, 6-2 SWC) had a full week to prepare for the Panthers (4-10, 2-7) and came out firing on all cylinders in the first set.
“We were definitely hungry after that game (against Roseburg),” North senior setter Alex Barry said. “I think it really helped us to have some time off from that game because it was so emotional, but time off also made us really excited to play (South). It was the last South game for me and all the seniors, so we all were just really excited.”
Barry led the offense while putting together an impressive statistical line (30 assists, seven digs, three aces, four kills in nine attempts with no errors). She was especially successful feeding the ball to her younger sister, sophomore Lauren Barry (11 kills, 17 digs, three aces), who was outstanding in all phases.
“I felt like Alex was in control,” North coach Malcolm Munson said. “She looked for opportunities to attack and keep (South) honest, but she also gave the ball to the kids who need to get the ball, so I was real happy for her night.”
The Barry sisters were among several North players with aces, building on a recent string of matches in which the Black Tornado has served lights-out. Against South, the team missed only three serves in 73 attempts with 11 aces, highlighted by a seven-point service run by Adriane McLemore in the third set.
“Our kids put pressure on their kids in serve-receive and our kids do serve well,” Munson said. “That’s something we pride ourselves on and do work a ton on, and so I thought our serve game was stellar.”
North’s defense was consistently solid, as well, led by Lauren Barry’s 17 digs and Kiley Pauck’s 13 digs.
The Black Tornado’s offense slowed in the second and third sets, but middle Sydney Kloek (five kills) provided a much-needed spark down the stretch.
“I thought the first set was really nice,” Munson said. “We played really clean, and when we play clean like that and don’t make unforced errors, we’re pretty good. The second and third sets weren’t quite as clean and therefore they were closer.”
Offensively for South, Chanel Groom (eight kills, 10 digs, two blocks) and Ashleigh Anderson (six kills, three blocks) were standouts.
“We have girls that can put balls away and swing aggressively and find holes,” South coach Emily Brink said. “I think our hitters got frustrated tonight when they did have those opportunities because North is a great defensive team and they earned it tonight. They’re a solid team all the way around and I could see our offense getting frustrated and getting blocked and not being able to find holes, and no matter what we did they picked up, so you’ve got to give North credit.”
Another standout for South was senior setter Megan Davis (20 assists, 18 digs, two blocks), who reflected on her final match in the rivalry series.
“I was really excited to play North because the way we’ve been battling throughout this entire season,” Davis said. “I felt like we really could’ve taken them. And I felt like in that third set we really started picking it up, but it was just a little too late.
“It was an emotional experience, but it was for the better just because I’ve played with those girls for so long,” she continued. “It was kind of heartwarming to play them for the last time and they put up a good fight but I also felt like we did, too.”
— Reach sports reporter Mike Oxendine at 541-776-4499 or email@example.com