By ROB HAMILTON
Good serving by Highland helped them cruise to a first-round win the Central District volleyball tournament over Mount Gilead by scores of 25-9, 25-13 and 25-12.
The Scots picked up over 20 aces in the match, which pleased head coach Rob Terrill.
“I didn’t think in the last week or so, we had been serving very aggressively,” he said. “So we’ve been working on that. I think they said we had 23 aces or so tonight and I’m happy with that because they’re a pretty good defensive team.”
Eleven of those aces came from junior Taylor Belcher, who got the Scots off to a great start in the first set. After the Scots got a defensive stop on the opening point, she served for 11 straight points, getting many of those aces in the process.
Staked to a 12-0 lead before the Indians scored on a defensive stop and a point by Kora James, the Scots were able to pick up an easy 25-9 win in the set. “It took a little bit longer to get started,” said MG coach Lyndsay Wyeth. “That’s the way it normally is: if we start slow, it takes a while to get going, but if we start well, we can play with them.”
Mount Gilead got off to better starts in the second and third set, but was victimized by Highland’s defense. The Indians only mustered three offensive points in the second game prevented them from taking advantage of a strong defensive performance.
While the Scots scored 14 of their points on offense, they didn’t have any extended runs until the very end of the set. In the early going, one point each from Belcher and Bridget Oder and two from Ashton Terrill gave the Scots a 7-3 lead.
That advantage would be maintained until, at 12-8, the Scots got three points from Brogin Denman. Then, leading 19-12, they got four points from Terrill to jump in front by 11 points on their way to picking up the second set.
Coach Terrill commented that after his team jumped all over the Indians in the early going, they may have needed to regain their focus.
“We just needed to refocus a couple times,” he said. “We told them not to be satisfied to be playing on another team’s level.”
The coach was more pleased with his team’s performance in the third set. During the course of it, he sat some of his starters and mixed up his line-up.
“We play a lot of players,” he said. “We played 14 tonight. I like to force them into these situations because they have to communicate out there.”
The Indians opened with a point by James and two from Olivia Brewer to take an early 5-2 lead, but after getting a defensive stop, the Scots picked up seven straight points from Kelsey Walters to move in front 10-5. Wyeth noted that Highland’s ability to go on runs like that was a deciding factor in the set.
“We have a hard time passing against some of them,” she noted.
Two points from Keleigh Chambers brought MG within an 11-9 margin, but the Scots responded with two Belcher points and five from Denman to take a 20-10 lead, as they would go on to take the sweep in their first round match.
Coach Terrill noted that the key now is simply to continue advancing, as every round cuts the number of still-active teams in half.
“With this being the first round, half the teams go home,” he said. “You’re only left with 128 after this round, and then 64 and 32 and 16 and so on. It gets increasingly that much tougher.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS