It was business as usual for the Highland volleyball team when they hosted MOAC rival River Valley Tuesday evening.
Both teams entered the contest with 5-0 league records, but the Scots wasted little time in taking sole possession of the conference lead with a 25-14, 25-15, 25-16 win. For coach Rob Terrill, a big key to his team’s continued success is that they’ve had a balanced roster grade-wide over those years, meaning that they haven’t been decimated by graduation.
“It’s what we’ve done,” he said. “It always seems we have five or six letter-winners back and try to incorporate those kids. You don’t want to be great one year and then drop off.”
That is the case again this year, as the Scots are playing with six letter-winners from the 2020 season, including seniors Ashlynn Belcher and Kendall Stover, who will earn their fourth varsity letters this season. Both players were integral to the team’s win, with Belcher collecting 32 assists and four kills and Stover adding 23 kills. Also, Emma West and Larsen Terrill had five kills, Brooke Schott had four kills and Zoya Winkelfoos tallied 18 digs.
After the match, Belcher was recognized for reaching the 2000-assist mark. She broke the school record in that stat over the week at the Gilmour Invitational and has the rest of this year to add to her mark.
“She’s set the record and she was out half her sophomore year with a fractured ankle and we ran a 6-2 last year, so she set half the time. She’s done it in about two full seasons.”
While she missed a lot of time during her sophomore year, that was also the season she looked at being a record-setter as a possibility.
“Probably my sophomore year when we made a big state run,” she said. “The more and more stats we got, it seemed like something I could actually accomplish.”
For her part, Belcher gave a lot of credit to her teammates, noting that she’s played with a lot of great players.
“It helps me because I’m planning to play in college,” she said. “The girls who have been through here have played to college, so I can see where they go and gauge where I’m at.”
In beating the Vikings, the Scots led for nearly all the way in all three sets. The first one was close until, leading 10-6, Highland got three points from Winkelfoos and three more from Brylinn Tuggle. Two from Stover and three more by Belcher gave the team a 24-13 advantage on their way to winning 25-14.
The team got out to a fast start in the second game, as Winkelfoos scored twice and Tuggle added five points. Two from Stover and the score was 11-3. River Valley mustered a run, getting five straight points. However, with the score 17-14, the Scots got seven straight points — six off the serve of Winkelfoos — to take a commanding lead on their way to holding a 2-0 lead in the match.
Four points by Camryn Miller staked Highland to an early 6-2 lead in the third set. The teams would play evenly for a while after that, but another Scot run on five straight points by Stover turned a 16-12 score into a 21-12 advantage and the Vikings would not be able to battle back.
“They had a mini-run in the second set, but we thwarted it and then eked it out in the third set,” said Terrill. “Going to Galion Thursday, then going to Gilmour and then River Valley here; it’s been a tough week. I’m really proud of the girls. They responded well.”