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Panthers tip Crater in SOC volleyball


North Medford 15-14-15, Grants Pass — 10-16-12 — Klamath Union 15-15, Roseburg 8-11 — South Medford 15-15, Crater 7-11 — Ashland 15-15, Eagle Point 1-6

— THURSDAY'S GAMES — Starting times 7:15 p.m.

North Medford at Roseburg — Ashland at South Medford — Eagle Point at Crater — Grants Pass at Klamath Union — —

Last season was a frustrating experience for South Medford outside hitter Crystal Peterson.

Not only did Peterson miss much of the season with shoulder and ankle injuries, but the Panthers struggled on the court, winning just three of 14 matches in the Southern Oregon Conference.

Peterson is healthy now, and the Panthers have surrounded her with a strong supporting cast under second-year coach Jerry Hagstrom.

Peterson had 12 kills, and 10 players contributed in the Panthers' 15-7, 15-11 Southern Oregon Conference victory over Crater Tuesday night in the South gym.

The match was the season-opener for both teams.

Our goal is to make the playoffs and tonight was the first step, Peterson said. We're definitely a better team than last year. We've got more talent and we're much tougher mentally, and we're just a lot more close-knit as a team.

I think it's going to be a fun year.

South Medford dominated the first game, jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind solid serving from Crystal Glover and strong play in the middle from Carrie Doren and Kellie Thomas.

A stuff block by Thomas and kills from Lynn Wooten and Karla Zenz closed out Crater in the first game.

But the Comets wouldn't go down willingly. They built early leads of 3-0 and 6-1 in the second game and had an 11-8 advantage when Amber Hunt came off the bench to spark the Panthers. Hunt notched a kill for a South Medford sideout and then promptly served four straight points, the final one ending on a wicked kill by Peterson that ricocheted off the face of a Crater player.

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Crater's Sarah Yager, left, provides — a set as teammate Jody McLeod goes for the finish in their match — against South.

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She's got a floater serve that's deceptive, Hagstrom said of Hunt. It dives at the last second and can fool whoever's on the receiving end.

South Medford maintained its momentum behind reserve defensive specialist Annie Hoffmeier, who served the final three points of the match.

Crater coach Leaf Jensen said Peterson was the difference.

Their passing wasn't the best but she (Peterson) can hit the ball 12 feet off the net and still rip it, Jensen said. Every time they needed a kill, she got it. She was awesome.

The only aspect of the match that troubled Hagstrom was premature celebrating by his players. Some of them paraded in front of television cameras following the first game.

We got cocky, and at that point the match was far from over, Hagstrom said. You don't celebrate until the winning point is in the books.

We weren't ready when the second game started and it showed. I hope we learned a lesson.

Outside hitter Janell Sapienza led Crater with 10 digs and four aces and middle Jody McLeod had four blocks.