BEND — Realizing how tough the competition will be in the Southwest Conference this season, South Medford volleyball coach Robin Akpan was pleased with what she saw from her team against some quality opponents at the Mountain View Invite on Friday .
The Panthers finished the round robin with a 2-1 record, defeating Thurston (22-25, 25-10, 15-9) and Caldera (25-15, 25-16) before falling to Sisters (25- 22). , 25-20) at Mountain View High School.
“We’re off to a good start to the season,” Akpan said. “I think starting 2-1 at such a high level of competition, I’m impressed with where we’re starting.”
In three matches, senior outside hitter Katie Clevenger posted 28 kills. Her best effort came in the opener against Class 5A Thurston, as she recorded 12 kills and four aces. Fellow senior Cameron Christian added 16 digs and three aces, but her run of six points at the service line in the second set helped shift the momentum in the Panthers’ favor for good.
“I think the wicket we had had some nerves in the first set against Thurston, but after those passes, we really got it going,” Akpan said. “It was fun to see the girls get into the system. I thought we had good ball control and defense.”
Lola Horton also chipped in with five blocks, while setter Baylee Davis contributed 17 assists.
Against Caldera, Clevenger posted eight kills and 11 digs, and Davis was huge defensively with 18 digs to go with three aces. Freshman middle blocker Mayen Akpan had three kills and two blocks and Naomi Johnson added four kills.
The Panthers came out with a scare in their final game of the night, which was also their toughest test against the Sisters. Clevenger finished with eight kills and eight digs, Davis collected 20 assists while Mayen Akpan went for five kills and three blocks, Johnson had three kills and three aces, while Horton added two blocks and a pair of kills.
“Clevenger was on fire and our setter (Davis) found all our hitters and our last game of the day was a challenge for us,” coach Akpan said. “The sisters are a strong team and it gave us something to go home and work towards. They had some strong shots and we had to adjust to them and it was a little late to adjust. But we will see them again and we will know what to do.”
SOUTH SALEM 3, NORTH MEDFORD 2: North Medford had eighth-ranked South Salem on the ropes, but the Black Tornado was unable to close out the Saxons in a five-set thriller 25-23, 17-25, 25-23, 25-27, 10-15 at North Medford High.
North (1-1), coming off a season-opening win over Ashland, led South Salem (1-0) 24-20 in the fourth set before the Saxons — who made the Class 6A quarterfinals last season — were able to gather and get the last two groups.
Tornado senior Maddie Blake finished with 20 assists, while senior Olivia Stubenrauch and freshman Kristina Atonio both had nine kills. Senior libero Amy Kloek recorded 26 digs and Ria Atonio added a team-high three aces for North.
North sophomore middle blocker Nana Silafau had a big game defensively, recording 7 1/2 blocks.
CRATER WINS A CIF: In Bend, Crater bounced back from a season-opening loss against No. 1 ranked Sheldon. 4 and picked up a pair of wins over Burns and host Mountain View to finish 2-1 in the Mountain View Invite.
The Comets (2-1), ranked ninth in the Class 5A preseason coaches poll, played the Irish tough before falling in straight sets, 25-23, 25-9, then rallied to defeated the Cougars 23-25, 25-19, 15-12 and the Class 3A Highlanders 25-23, 25-21.
Senior outside hitter Kendra Bittle led the Comets in kills in all three games, finishing with 28 on the day. Senior outside hitter Maddie Consina added 11 kills, while senior setter Kate Stidham collected a combined 47 assists in the three matches.