The tears shed Saturday in the moments that followed North Medford's first five-game loss of the season were not tears of loss, according to head coach Ron Beick, rather on what the girls had gained during their remarkable run.
The No. 3-ranked Black Tornado upset top-ranked Jesuit in four games during Friday's quarterfinals, then returned a few hours later to dispose of defending state champion Gresham in five games to set up Saturday's finale with West Linn.
"This was a huge step forward," Beick
said Monday in the midst of several congratulatory phone calls."The girls knew they had accomplished a tremendous number of things."
And best of all, they earned it all through their own hard work and dedication to the program.
"The kids know full well that every Gresham player plays (volleyball) all year round, and every Jesuit kid and every Central Catholic kid and so on," said Beick
of the large club teams that fuel the state's top prep programs.
It's been a developing process for Beick
and company, certainly not an overnight success story.
For the past 20 years the Black Tornado has toiled through a large-school classification dominated by the likes of Gresham, Central Catholic, West Linn, Jesuit and Barlow.
took over the volleyball program for the 1994 season, like any coach, state championships were the ultimate goal.
But if you could snap your fingers and make it happen the sporting world wouldn't be what it is today, providing the wonder and emotion that only live theater provides.
The Black Tornado had a fourth-place showing in 1993 to open the door for greater things, and under Beick
the team finished sixth in 1997 and third in 1998 to continue that evolution.
A key to the puzzle came in the years to follow, with Beick
toying with the notion of significantly changing his
defensive system by adopting a blocking philosophy that had showed promise in the Olympics and at the college level in the late 1980s.
"I know our blocking statistically improved significantly, and that was a key in how we beat Jesuit," said Beick
And in the end, as Beick
was quick to point out, it's the kids and not the scheme that really makes it all work.
"The final key for us was what a great team they were," Beick
said of the Tornado."Everything you would want as a coach in terms of how they worked together, cared for each other and supported each other was there.They were the epitome of team."
And although this year's group will be tough to match, Beick
four returners have already begun talking about getting back to the state tournament and propelling the North program over its final hurdle.