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South wins wild one

The South Medford volleyball team snapped a long losing streak and made history, all in one wild night.

The Panthers lost their first two games before rallying to beat rival North Medford, 24-26, 18-25, 25-19, 25-17, 16-14, in the first varsity contest ever played inside the new South Medford High gymnasium on Thursday.

South had not defeated the Black Tornado since Sept. 29, 2005, when the Panthers used five games to edge North on the road.

And if things weren't exciting enough, a fire alarm sounded about midway through the third game, causing an evacuation and a delay that lasted around 35 minutes.

Once play resumed, things heated up in the Southern Oregon Conference opener. With the match tied, South took a 12-8 lead in the final game before North's Telsche Munson served five straight points to put the Black Tornado ahead. After a sideout, the Panthers rattled off four straight to seal the emotional deal.

"It was a bummer that (the fire alarm issue) happened, but it didn't change the match I don't think," North Medford head coach Erika Wright said. "It was just one of those things to make it an even crazier night. I think the difference was their age and experience compared to ours."

South Medford head coach Sarah Costa said her team's focus intensified after the second game.

"From the third game on, something switched on in our minds and we had a moment to refocus," Costa said. "They came back on the court completely focused, like no one was around them. That's a huge success for us. They knew they could do it."

As for breaking in the new court with a Panthers victory?

"That was something that we knew going in," Costa said. They were the first team, and we didn't want (North) to come into our house and take that first win."

Amanda Gardner registered 23 digs and Madi Sash had 13 kills and 11 digs for South (2-0), which beat Grants Pass in five games on Tuesday. Grace Brennan recorded five blocks, Hanna Curtius notched 27 assists and Miranda Marincus added 12 digs for the Panthers, who have six seniors.

Emily Otoski had 10 kills for North. Caitlin Barrie recorded six kills, five aces and two blocks and Katy Carter added six kills and three aces.

Wright said libero Kim Gomez dictated the pace and led North (1-1) in digs.

The Black Tornado and Panthers compete in the Roseburg Classic this weekend.

North's Emily Otoski and South's Grace Brennan (13) meet at the net during Thursday's match. - Andy Atkinson