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PREP VB: South takes Bear Creek Bash title

PHOENIX — A third straight weekend of tournament play proved to be the charm for the South Medford volleyball team.

South Medford was able to clear that one final hurdle that had been missing the previous two weeks, as the Panthers beat Foothill High of California 25-20, 25-20 in the championship match of the Bear Creek Bash at Phoenix High School on Saturday.

“This was a big week for us,” said South head coach Robin Akpan. “It was a very busy week for us with homecoming and we were coming off a big win over Roseburg (on Thursday night). We had the goal of winning this tournament after coming up just a little short the last two weeks. I’m proud of the girls for having the stamina to finish play at 7 o’clock and have strong performance throughout the entire week.”

The Panthers, who had lost in the championship matches of the Sprague Tournament and the Rogue Valley Classic the last two Saturdays, got to the final match with a 25-14, 25-18 win over Cascade Christian.

In Saturday’s final, South Medford — which is tied with Sheldon atop the Southwest Conference standings with identical 6-1 records — was able to rally from a 17-10 hole in the second set to flip the score in its favor. Brooke Johnston had a run of 10 straight serves during the Panthers’ rally, with Katie Clevenger and Mayen Akpan each recording four kills over that span.

Clevenger finished with nine kills, six digs, two blocks and two aces, while Mayen Akpan had seven kills and two blocks against Foothill, which had seen its nine-match winning streak snapped earlier in the week.

Lola Horton added four kills and a block, Cameron Christian had five digs and Baylee Davis recorded 23 assists, a pair of aces and a block in Saturday’s final.

“Katie Clevenger took some huge swings, Baylee — who was coming off an illness — came in and made some great decisions for us and Cameron Christian picked up a ton of digs,” said coach Akpan, whose team faces North Medford on Tuesday night.

Crater advanced to the semifinal round with a 25-12, 25-16 win over Grants Pass, but Foothill kept the Comets out of the championship match with a 25-20, 19-25, 16-14 triumph. Crater trailed 14-10 in the third set and tied it up, only to see Foothill answer with the final two points.

Kendra Bittle had 11 kills in the semifinals for Crater, while Maddie Kocina added nine kills and Kate Stidham supplied 26 assists and eight digs.

“Foothill just played great defense against us,” said Crater coach Leaf Jensen. “They’re just really tough defenders and we just struggled a little bit against them. We just made too many errors and they just kept putting the ball back in play.”

CRUSADER CLASSIC: St. Mary’s wrapped up a four-match sweep in its own tournament with a dominant display over Douglas, 25-9, 25-9, at St. Mary’s High.

Noelle Thickett and Sydney Alexander each had double-digit service runs in the first set to allow St. Mary’s (11-5) to win going away, with Thickett supplying six aces and Alexander adding four.

Kelsey Dunn had 10 kills and four blocks, Katilyn Hansen dished out 17 assists and Albie Borovansky had seven digs to cap a 4-0 day.

All told, the Crusaders gave up only one set in beating Lakeview 2-1 (27-25, 22-25, 25-17), La Pine 2-0 (25-17, 25-20) and Del Norte 2-0 (25-22, 25-19) in the round-robin event.

Dunn had 12 kills against Lakeview and La Pine, while Emma Johnston had eight kills in each of those matches. Hansen combined for 89 assists in the tourney.

South Medford's Katherine Clevenger, seen here in a file photo, had nine kills against Foothill in Saturday’s Bear Creek Bash title match. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune