Ashland VB team opens season with easy win at Crater

CENTRAL POINT — Piper Cantrell had nine kills and a block and Cassie Hall had 16 assists as the Ashland High volleyball team opened its season with a straight-game victory over Crater Thursday at the Crater High gym.

The nonconference win marked a successful debut for Ashland first-year head coach Robin Akpan, a former AHS all-star.

"I have to say, traveling to Crater and coaching against (Crater coach) Jen Mendenhall was a great first match," Akpan said. "She's a great coach and has lots of passion.

"I had a lot of confidence in my team tonight. We've been working hard all summer and I was excited to see what they had to bring out on the floor."

What they brought to the floor was good enough to dominate the opening game before pulling away late in Game 2 and cruising in Game 3.

Cantrell, a senior outside hitter, and Hall, a senior setter, paced the Grizzlies throughout, but Ashland also got standout performances out of freshman setter Jordan Tilley and senior libero Olivia Fidler.

Tilley made the most of her playing time, notching three aces after entering the match in the third game, and Fidler finished with a team-high five digs.

"I think that there was many high points to the game, but there are some things that we'll go back into the gym and work on, like just being consistent and holding our focus throughout," Akpan said. "But overall I think they did a great job of continuing to step up."

The victory gives Ashland momentum heading into one of its most important matches of the regular season, Tuesday's Southern Oregon Hybrid clash with Eagle Point. The match, which will be played in Ashland, is one of only three between the SOH rivals which will determine the league's No. 1 seed to state.

"We are really looking forward to coming back home," Akpan said.

Crater was led by senior middle hitter Rachele Kingslington and junior libero Maddie Layton. Kingslington finished with five kills and Layton had nine digs for the Class 6A Comets.

"We really struggled that first game, but the second game we did come back and we did fight," Mendenhall said. "I was just proud of them for coming back."

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