North Medford’s Kyle Jolley, left, and Whitney Hodnett combine on a block of Sheldon’s Allix Strahon during Thursday’s match at North Medford High School.

Tornado spikes Sheldon

North Medford found itself in quite a predicament against new Southwest Conference volleyball rival Sheldon in the league opener for both squads Thursday night.

Down 2-0 in games, the Black fifth-ranked Tornado quickly righted the ship to blow by the No. 8-ranked Irish, 22-25, 23-25, 25-12, 25-12, 15-8 at the Tornado gym.

"It was actually a very well-played game defensively for being so early in the season," said North Medford coach Ron Beick. "There were flashes of brilliance by both teams at times. And there were some really long rallies, where both teams went all out. All-in-all, it was a very fun match for the crowd to watch."

North Medford (9-1, 1-0 SWC) senior Whitney Hodnett slammed 22 kills to go with 22 digs, while Megan Bartling had 10 kills and nine blocks. Setter Natalie Lorenz also had a big night, dishing 47 assists.

"We had a real balanced attack after the first two games," said Beick. "I thought we did a good job of cleaning up early mistakes and sticking to the system and trusting each other."

The early going was tough, however, for the Black Tornado.

Sheldon setter Allix Strahon used a jump serve to give the Irish a 7-1 lead in Game 1. North Medford battled back behind the hitting of Bartling and Hodnett, but Strahon came on again to get Sheldon back in the game.

"She doesn't serve very fast paced, but she's very accurate and has a lot of movement," said Beick.

In Game 2, North Medford went ahead 23-16 and had all momentum on its side until Strahon toed the line once again.

After a sideout made it 23-17, Strahon served out the final eight points to hand Sheldon a 2-0 advantage.

"We were kind of reeling at that point," said Beick. "Giving up two games and putting them in a position to win ... I think a young team may have folded. But we didn't."

The continued strong play of Hodnett and Bartling and a mid-match alteration helped spark North.

Sheldon's Hannah Thompson, who finished with a team-high 31 digs, was getting a hand on most Tornado attempts, which essentially stalled most offensive momentum for North Medford in the two opening games.

But the Tornado began moving its attack away from Thompson and finding positive results.

Particularly senior Erica Schultz, who had four of her nine kills during a key run in the middle of Game 4.

Sheldon was led by 15 kills from Gabbie Parker and 13 kills from Strahon.

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