Following Tuesday's match, Ashland players and coaches alike made the theme of the night even more clear than usual: confidence.
In theory, the Grizzlies should have had very little confidence going into their match against sixth-ranked 6A foe North Medford only a few nights after being convincingly swept by Roseburg on their home floor.
Just a handful of matches into the season, however, it's obvious that it will take more than just theory to explain the Ashland volleyball team.
In a match about as dramatic as non-conference high school volleyball gets, the Grizzlies fended off a North Medford comeback behind senior Asia Kane's 18 kills, 14 digs and four aces to upset the Black Tornado, 25-15, 25-20, 23-25, 13-25, 15-6.
Ashland (2-3) coasted in the first game and looked equally sharp thereafter.
Kane jumpstarted the second game by teaming up with Taylor Hartrick for a block, and capped a 5-0 opening run with a kill courtesy of a Kiley Pinder assist.
North Medford tied Game 2 at 13 and went on to trade several points with the Grizzlies until Pinder hooked up with Hayley Ross and Niki Small consecutively to give Ashland a 19-16 lead. The Grizzlies held onto the lead behind a pair of Kane's kills and a block, and Pinder ended the game with an ace.
"We were playing really well together and we were very confident," Kane said.
While Pinder agreed, she didn't feel like the Grizzlies grew overconfident.
"We were definitely happy with the way we played the first two games," she said, "but we were also thinking (North Medford) was going to come out strong and ready to go."
And that they did.
Taylor Hartrick's kill gave Ashland a 14-12 third-game lead, but it was around that time that the unpredictable Grizzlies became sloppy. An unforgiving Black Tornado team capitalized and took the next eight points, seven coming on Ashland errors.
"We let up a little and they came back fired up," said Grizzlies coach Jodee Scott. "We were really struggling passing, got completely unconnected and just lost all momentum."
Kane stopped the bleeding with a kill, and Koko Petitt's smash later made it 23-24, but North's Jaci Abeloe notched one of her team-high 14 kills on the ensuing play.
The Tornado took the air out of the Ashland Middle School Gym in the fourth game, never trailing and racing out to 19-9 lead as the Grizzlies continued to struggle passing and North began to click.
The deflated Grizzlies looked as good as done when North forced a fifth game, but Ashland's coach was unwilling to watch her team fold.
"I told them this is what it's all about," Scott said. "They needed to choose between losing or being the team that goes after every ball and never gives up."
To her relief, they chose the latter.
Tied 3-3 in the decisive fifth game, the Asia Kane Show began once again. The outside hitter hooked up with Pinder for a kill to give the Grizzlies the lead and, up 6-4, Kane struck again. Small then delivered an ace, which was followed by another Kane kill and then a Tornado attacking error that gave Ashland a 10-4 advantage.
The Grizzlies never looked back, and Kane fittingly ended the match with an ace.
"She was so consistent the whole game," Scott said of Kane. "She's a quiet assassin because she's always so steady, but she makes a play almost every time she touches the ball."
Pinder bounced back from being benched last Thursday to tally a match-high 31 assists, but preferred to talk about the team's performance rather than her own.
"It feels really good," the senior setter said. "I think we just wanted it more and it gave us a whole lot of confidence knowing we could do it."
Small added 14 kills for the Grizzlies and junior Elizabeth Westmoreland had 14 digs.
For the Tornado, who dropped to 4-5 on the year, Danielle Boyd and Mackenzie Smith combined for 30 assists while Boyd added seven kills.
"North is a great team," added Scott. "They got us last year and we really wanted this one, so it was a big win and definitely a confidence booster."
Quietly — as a "quiet assassin" presumably is — Kane indicated that her team dismissed the third and fourth games from its memory.
"We just weren't playing well, but that's OK," she said. "We're just happy we won."