Hamilton Badin was able to steal the momentum from Highland in each of the first two sets to eliminate the Scots from the Division II volleyball tournament on Thursday.
Competing in the regional semifinals at Vandalia Butler High School, Highland jumped out to sizable early leads in those two sets, but watched their opponents battle back to win them in what would become a 19-25, 18-25, 12-25 loss for the Scots (22-4).
“I just felt they kept delivering hard balls to us and we were digging some of them up, but we just made a lot of little mistakes,” said head coach Rob Terrill. “I don’t think we played to our potential, but that’s being in regionals for a young team. We’re starting a lot of freshmen and sophomores. First two sets, we were up 5-1 and 6-1 and we just let them come back into it.”
Terrill added that Badin’s size and power at the net provided a lot of trouble for his team. The Rams had a lot of success blocking Highland’s kill attempts.
“We’re not a big team,” he said. “Our tallest player is our setter. It’s probably the smallest team we’ve ever had and I just thought they were able to take advantage of the situation that way. I think they had five blocks on us in the second set and three or four in the third set. Their height at the net and experience there was just more than we could handle.”
In the opening set, two defensive scores and three points off the serving of Camryn Miller staked the Scots to a 5-1 lead, but Badin rallied to tie things up at six behind four points from Olivia Schmidt. A defensive point and a score by Grace Glover made it 8-6 in favor of the Rams.
The teams would be closely contested for most of the set, but Badin would surge late. Holding a 17-15 advantage, they got a defensive score and two points from Luci Heid to move in front by five. Ellie Green would then add a pair of points to make it a 23-16 contest. The Scots rallied with three in a row — two from the serving of Larsen Terrill — but Badin would tally the last two points of the set to take a lead over Highland.
The second set played out the same way. Terrill scored the first five points of it and Highland would lead 6-1 in the early going. After a Savanna Sanborn point for Highland, the Rams would come back with a defensive score and five points from Schmidt to knot the set at 7-7.
Two points by Kameron Stover helped Highland regain the lead at 11-8, but Heid had success serving for Badin to prevent the Scots from pulling away. With the Rams holding a 16-15 lead, Shelby Mulcare scored six straight to put them on the brink of winning the set, which they soon would to be one game away from the regional finals.
In the third set, it would be the Rams who got out to a fast start, riding five points from Mulcare to an early 7-2 lead. Unfortunately for the Scots, they would be unable to rally. Two points by Stover would bring them within an 8-6 margin, but they would not score another point on their serve as Badin gradually pulled away for the win.
Terrill noted that mistakes hurt his team down the stretch.
“I was telling the coaches, even in that third set, we’re down 18-10, but they only had eight kills and we had six,” he said. “It was just the amount of errors that we were putting on the board and that goes back to our youth.”
Miller finished with 20 digs in the match, while Stover had 13 kills and Terrill added 23 assists and two aces. Also, Reagan Maibach had four kills and Mia Stanco tallied three kills and two blocks.
Rob Terrill noted that one advantage of his team’s youth is that they’ll have lot of returnees next year.
“We only lose two seniors, one in the line-up,” he said. “I told the juniors — we have a large junior class — they’re now seniors for next year. I already graduated them up to seniors, so they’ve just got to be ready to push our level of play up.”
The Scots will graduate Ashley Foster and Miller. Terrill noted that Miller, his starting Libero, will be tough to replace, but notes that he’ll have a lot of returnees looking to break into the line-up.
“We’ve got some really good DSs (defensive specialist),” he said. “She will be a tough spot to fill, but we’ll have 10 lettermen going into next year. We’ve never had that many lettermen before. That goes back to our youth this year. This was a great experience to be here and compete. We won a league championship, won a district championship and here we are at regionals. We’ll just keep that going and come back next year stronger.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS