North surges past Grants Pass
With strong serving and solid defense, the two helped the Black Tornado to a 15-4, 15-6 Southern Oregon Conference win over visiting Grants Pass and sole possession of the fourth and final playoff spot.
After a 2-5 start to the SOC season that included a three-game loss to Grants Pass, North now stands alone in fourth place with a 6-6 mark. The Cavers fell to 5-7.
"We've shown significant improvement," North Medford coach Ron Beick said. "The chemistry is better, and our outside hitters (Bakker and Stacey Casebier) have improved a lot.
"We had moments of playing well in the first round (of SOC play), but we had a lot of players getting used to new positions. I think we have gained confidence since then."
Bakker served eight straight points to give North an 11-0 lead in Game 1, and Higgins closed things out from the line with points 11-15.
"Bakker's serving and defense were the keys during that stretch," Beick said. "We either got the kill or they made an error."
The Cavers came out stronger in Game 2, but after a 4-4 tie, Tara Siebenlist served North to a commanding 10-4 lead. Grants Pass tried to rally, but Higgins once again closed the door with her serve.
"This was one of her best serving efforts of the season," Beick said. "She's been a good server for most of the year, but she hit a lot tougher tonight."
Casebier led the Tornado (10-10 overall) with seven kills, while Higgins added six to go along with five digs and three blocks. Setter Candace Fleener had 16 assists.
The Comets missed on 14 serves against the Panthers (4-8 SOC), many coming in an opening-game loss, but rebounded with solid play at the net by Erin Kinney, Nichollette LeBel and Crystal Huntley.
LeBel had 14 kills and Kinney added 11, while Huntley came up big in Game — with two solo blocks and an assisted block for the final three points.
Crater (11-6 overall) managed a 12-8 lead in the first game before Stephanie Anderburg served for six straight points for South.
Meagan Shanahan and Jessica Rickman each had nine kills for the Panthers, with Shanahan adding 13 digs and Amanda Cox chipping in 12 digs.
The Comets next play a makeup match against Klamath Union at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Eagle Point fell to 4-8 in the SOC - dropping two games behind fourth-place North Medford for the conference's final state playoff spot with two games remaining. Ashland remained one-half game ahead of Crater for second place at 9-3 and 15-6 overall.
The Eagles led 14-9 in the third game and had two opportunities to end the match.
Ashland defensive specialist Tiffany Talbott served points 10-12. And on the Grizzlies' next rotation, Ashley Fence served out the match.
Junior middle Marla Morin led the Grizzlies with 15 kills, including seven in the third game, and four blocks. Senior outside hitter Kacey Zundel contributed 13 kills, 20 digs and three aces, while setter Molly Grossmann dished out 41 assists to go with eight digs.
The Eagles got 13 kills from senior outside hitter Dani Rouhier, 18 digs and 12 kills from senior middle Kara Stuart and 36 assists from junior setter Aubrey Harrington.
ROSEBURG 15-15, KLAMATH UNION 2-10- At Klamath Falls, Klamath Union had difficulty hitting around the Roseburg block and the Pels also had trouble passing on serve-receive.
Senior middle Shannon Burmeister paced the Indians' front row with 12 kills, while senior outside Katie Kahn added eight. Setters Mary Junkin and Kate Stone combined for 20 assists.