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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Sheldon turns back North Medford

EUGENE — North Medford missed its chance to gain valuable momentum early and host Sheldon caught fire to pull away for a Southwest Conference volleyball victory Thursday.

After rallying in the first set, the fourth-ranked Irish topped the Black Tornado 31-29, 25-16, 25-16.

“Sheldon is obviously very good,” said North head coach Malcolm Munson. “We probably should’ve gotten that first one, we had opportunities. We were up three or four points at one point but couldn’t close them out.”

“After that (the Irish) settled into a groove a little bit and their size hurt us,” he added.

Lauren Barry powered down 25 kills to go with 20 digs for the Black Tornado (8-6, 3-3 SWC), while Hannah Drysdale added 30 assists, Catherine Rostel had eight kills and 18 digs and Taryn Holmes managed seven digs and one ace.

North Medford continued to play without injured senior middle blocker Jenna Sandstrom.

“I thought the rest of the kids stepped up and did a nice job,” added Munson. “We battled with a perenial state power and they just wore us down a little bit. It was fun.”

Sheldon improved to 17-6 and 6-0 in league.

SOUTH MEDFORD 3, GRANTS PASS 1: Alondra Picasso nailed aces on the last two points of the fourth set to give South Medford its first Southwest Conference victory of the season, 22-25, 25-18, 25-22, 27-25, in the South Medford gym.

The Panthers (7-7. 1-5 SWC) got the job done by finishing at the net as Tes Wente had nine kills and seven blocks, while Katie Clevenger and Kiya Jackson added seven kills each. Jackson had four blocks as well as four aces.

Grants Pass is 5-10 and 1-5.

MAZAMA 3, PHOENIX 2: At Phoenix, Josie Bolstad had 19 kills, 23 digs and five blocks but Mazama was able to do just enough in the pivotal fifth set to win the Skyline Conference match, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22, 12-25, 16-14.

Celeste Mackinnon added 10 kills and three blocks for the Pirates (3-14, 2-5 Skyline), while Rae Goff had 33 digs and four aces and Jourden Devey totaled 34 digs, five kills and three aces.

SUTHERLIN 3, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 2: Cascade Christian struggled from the serving stripe in the final two sets and dropped a hard-fought match in the Challengers’ gym, 18-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-17, 17-15.

An intense offensive battle to the end, Cascade Christian (8-5, 5-2 FWL) saw its hold on first place in the Far West League fade despite fireworks from Taylor Cave. The junior setter would amass 36 assists, eight kills and four aces.

Offensively, Janie Kenaston had 19 kills and Olivia Borg had 11 kills and three aces. Hannah Stanfield added nine kills, but it was not enough as the Bulldogs were hitting the ball efficiently in the fourth and fifth sets.

In the first set, Madi Schwartz nailed six of her seven aces.

DOUGLAS 3, ST. MARY’S 0: Natalie Thickett posted team-highs with five kills and 19 digs but St. Mary’s couldn’t overcome 20 hitting errors in a 25-19, 25-17, 25-23 loss in Far West League play in the Crusaders’ gym.

Freshman Kelsey Dunn had three blocks and three kills for St. Mary’s (9-12, 3-4 FWL), which also got four kills from Abbie Christman and 12 assists by Ashley Gurr.

BUTTE FALLS 3, ILLINOIS VALLEY 2: At Butte Falls, after dropping the third and fourth sets, Butte Falls mentally took over with its serve-receive and transition offense to win 15-9 in the last set in the Southern Cascade League match. The Loggers won by a 26-24, 25-20, 15-25, 23-25, 15-9 final score.

Butte Falls (8-5, 5-3 SCL) jumped to a 7-4 lead in the decisive set on clutch serving and then closed it out with offensive firepower. Ellie Columbus and Tahlor Westrom had 11 kills each while Kassi Hines added six.

Defensively, Westrom and Lucia Damiana led the way with 35 and 31 digs, respectively, from the back row. Ally Kirkpatrick and Bailey West combined for 21 digs as well.

At the net, Columbus had five blocks and Hines had three.

Cascade Christian's Olivia Borg, facing,{ } works the net against Sutherlin. PHOTO FROM MAX KING