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Tornado dashes into finals

HILLSBORO — The North Medford volleyball team experienced a season's worth of emotion on the opening day of the eight-team Class 6A volleyball state tournament on Friday at Liberty High School.

Mere hours after disposing of top-ranked Jesuit in four games on Friday morning, the third-ranked Black Tornado (31-5) defeated defending state champion and fourth-ranked Gresham (17-7) in a thrilling five-game match, earning a trip to the first state title game in school history.

North Medford's 21-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-19 victory over Jesuit avenged two losses in tournament play earlier this season and was just the Crusaders' second loss of the year.

"I had a good vibe before the game and everyone was just ready to go," senior right side Erica Schultz said of quarterfinal match. "Just knowing that we did and that we can. ... I can't describe. It's such a great feeling."

In the semifinal match, North responded after dropping the first two games to force a Game 5, then overcame a 14-9 deficit in that final game to shock Gresham and win the match, 18-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-18, 16-14.

"This is the most my blood pressure can take," North coach Ron Beick said. "To have beaten number one, to be in the finals, those are unbelievable things. In terms of the program, they have hit new heights that no one has ever hit. It's really a great, great night for us."

North faces West Linn tonight at 8:30 for the state title. The Lions (19-4), which defeated North in three games in a tournament earlier this season, are the Three Rivers League champion and reached the title match by ousting Lincoln in three games and second-ranked Central Catholic in five games on Friday.

The Black Tornado hit .287 with 40 kills and only 13 errors against Jesuit.

Schultz finished with 11 kills, senior outside Kellie Satterfield added 10, Jaci Abeloe had nine and Megan Bartling contributed six kills to go with eight blocks.

Jesuit (38-2), which plays Canby at 8 a.m. this morning in a consolation-bracket match, committed 14 service errors against the Tornado.

"That's a great number against a great defensive team," said Beick. "It's a huge win. Jesuit was clearly the favorite and we were clearly the underdog."

North certainly earned its way to the title game with an unrelenting resiliency in the semifinals against Gresham, the No. 2 seed out of the Mt. Hood Conference.

The Gophers built a 5-0 lead in Game 5 and had North on the ropes at 14-9. But the Black Tornado front line, led by seniors Bartling and Satterfield and the clutch serving of senior Ashley Arnold led to the stunning turnaround.

After a sideout, North Medford had two straight blocks and Gresham had two hitting errors, one off of an Arnold serve, to knot the score at 14.

Two more North blocks, the final from Bartling and Satterfield, closed out the improbable victory.

Bartling amassed 12 blocks and Satterfield had seven to go along with a team-high 18 digs.

"They had amazing blocking tonight," Gresham coach Lori Anderson said of North. "Especially in Game 5, we really didn't get a ball past their block. That really came down to be the difference in the match."

Abeloe, a junior outside hitter, led the North attack with 14 digs, Bartling added 12, Satterfield tallied nine and Schultz managed seven. North had 13 aces as a team.

Senior setter Natalie Lorenz had 43 assists.

"It was crazy to come back from a deficit like that, but we knew we could do it and we just had to keep telling ourselves that," Abeloe said. "It's so much emotion. We're balling our eyes out right now.

"It means so much to our seniors. I've never been on a team this special."

Gresham appeared in control of the match from the outset. The Gophers built 5-0 leads in the first two games, winning Game 1 with ease and surviving a 9-0 North Medford run to hang on in the second game.

Gresham was led offensively by senior Amiee Frutchey with 19 kills and senior Kyra Speer with 18 kills. Junior outside hitter Jane Moesche had 12 kills and four aces while sophomore setter Courtney Pattock had 45 assists.

North Medford controlled Game 3, building as big as a 10-point lead, to stay alive in the match and carried that momentum over to Game 4 when the Black Tornado, on the strength of a 9-0 run, pulled away after the game was tied at 13.

"I was really proud, with everything that happened, we had enough to win Games 3 and 4," Beick said. "Over 30 years (of coaching), they are one of the best — just in terms of trusting each other and sticking to the game plan. They understand what we're trying to do. They believe."

Reach sports reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com