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Panthers didn't shy away from long loss streak

Prep Notebook

South Medford High volleyball coach Adam Wagman likened his school's 18-year, 36-match conference losing streak to North Medford as that big elephant in the room.

It was something really big that no one wanted to talk about, Wagman says, but my philosophy is, you need to talk about it.

Wagman discussed the subject openly with his girls prior to their match against the Black Tornado last Tuesday.

Whether the candid dialogue worked any magic is speculation, but the Panthers purged the streak with a 21-25, 25-20, 16-25, 25-21, 15-12 victory.

What made the win especially satisfying was that the Panthers triumphed in comeback fashion. They lost two of the first three games and trailed 18-9 in what could have been a match-ending Game 4.

— That's a big deficit to come back from in rally scoring, Wagman says. But our girls didn't panic. They just focused on winning one point at a time and not getting upset whenever they lost a point. They just kept pushing and pushing and pretty soon we were back in the game.

South Medford also had to rally in the decisive Game 5, overcoming deficits of 9-6, 10-7 and 11-8 behind the strong serving of Simone Hubbard and Emily Marshall, who each had one ace during the run.

Wagman thinks switching to a two-setter attack, with Lauren Koeninger setting in the front row and Hubbard coming off the bench to serve in the back row, benefited South Medford during the final two games.

I think our attack became less predictable when we went to the two-set lineup, he says. We'd been playing a little raggedly and needed a boost, and Simone came off the bench and gave us one.

South Medford's front line of 6-foot middles Jen Mendenhall and Chenoa Coviare and 6-foot right side Marissa Towry is among the biggest and the best in the SOC.

Wagman also has high praise for outside hitter Peggy Thompson, whom he calls the Panthers' Silent Assassin.

She's a quiet kid, but she does a lot of good things for us at key times, says Wagman. She seems to always come up with a key kill or a key ace or a great defensive play. She's probably the least-known kid we have out there, but she's been a big part of our success.

Wagman, 32, took over the South Medford program from Jerry Hagstrom last year after spending three years at Glencoe High in Hillsboro. Previously, he spent five years as an assistant coach at Ashland and one year as an assistant at Southern Oregon University.

I came to South Medford at a good time, Wagman says. Jerry had the program in solid shape, and the group of girls I inherited are very committed.

South Medford's goal is to reach the Class 4A state tournament for the first time in school history, but there are many obstacles ahead, including tonight's match at SOC co-leader Roseburg and Thursday's home match against Ashland.

Only two games separate North Medford (7-1), Roseburg (7-1), South Medford (6-2) and Ashland (5-3).

If we're going to have any hopes of finishing higher than fourth place in this league, then we've got to win at least one of the matches this week, says Wagman, whose team is comprised of two seniors, one sophomore and eight juniors.

Maybe life will get a little smoother for the Panthers now that they've kicked the elephant out of the room.

THE PHOENIX HIGH football team suffered a huge loss Friday when star running back Max Boots sustained a season-ending knee injury in the Pirates' 13-8 loss to North Valley.

Boots, who tore anterior cruciate and medical collateral ligaments, had been a one-man wrecking crew for the Pirates. The 6-foot, 190-pound senior had amassed 699 yards and 10 touchdowns in leading Phoenix to three straight wins to start the season.

Boots ran for 53 yards on 13 carries against North Valley before getting hurt late in the first quarter.

NORTH MEDFORD football coach Rod Rumrey jumped on a couple of his assistant coaches last week after they arrived late to Spiegelberg Stadium for a practice session on the new artificial turf.

The Black Tornado was ready to work on special teams, but the assistant coaches had the footballs.

Turns out they had a good excuse for being tardy. As they pulled out of the North Medford parking lot, the balls and some blocking pads bounced out of the back of their pickup. As they gathered up the balls, a couple of men drove by in their car, jumped out and stole the pads.

The assistant coaches gave chase but to no avail.

I assumed it was a couple of kids, but the coaches said it was men in their 30s, Rumrey says. Go figure.

WHEN NORTH MEDFORD fullback Ryan Weiss suffered a concussion against Central Catholic on Sept. 10, the Tornado coaches discovered that two of the four airbags in his specially-designed helmet were flat.

Weiss wears the special helmet after he suffered a severe concussion when he fell off his bicycle in the sixth grade.

After the injury, Weiss' Riddell Revolution helmet was equipped with new bladders. He also wears a foam cup on top of his helmet that adds additional protection.

EAGLE POINT SENT A rooter bus to a road game for the first time in several years last Friday. The students were rewarded when the upstart Eagles rolled to a 26-0 victory over Grants Pass, improving their record to 4-0 for the first time since 1984.

I think we had more fans there than Grants Pass, Eagle Point coach Harry Hedrick said. Everyone is jumping on our bandwagon.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail