Highland’s road volleyball match with Cardington on Thursday could have served as an illustration of the program’s recent domination of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference’s Blue Division.
The Scots, who have gone years without losing a set in Blue Division play, let alone a match, toppled their hosts by scores of 25-10, 25-21, 25-11. In the first and third sets, they played strong defense and were able to pull off multiple scoring runs in cruising to wins. In the second set, the Pirates led for a large portion of the action, but Highland would battle back down the stretch to pull off a hard-fought victory.
Scot coach Rob Terrill noted that with a balanced team containing a lot of veterans, as well as first-year varsity players, he feels his squad has been well-equipped to handle those more stressful moments over the past few seasons.
“We’ve had enough opportunities to try different things,” he said. “(When it’s close) I’m not stressed about it because we’ve done it before and they’re confident in what they’re doing. We’re playing 10-11-12 players and getting them experience. It’s nice having the experience we have and to get other players experience.”
It didn’t take long for the Scots to blow open the first game. After three points from Cardington’s Marissa Hall brought her team within a 6-5 margin, Highland scored a defensive point to get the ball back and then got six straight points from Parker Steck to go up 13-5. The Pirates would only score one more offensive point in the set, while the Scots got four from Bailey Santo and three from Taylor Belcher to propel them to an easy win.
The second game would be much more challenging. While Highland’s defense wasn’t giving up scoring runs to the Pirates, Cardington was picking up points with regularity and keeping the Scots from making their own runs. After a point from Hall put the Pirates up 14-12, though, the Scots would get a defensive stop and five points from Ashton Terrill to take a four-point lead.
Cardington fought back with one point from MaKenna McClure and two from Jordan Deskins to tie the score at 19 and a later point by Maci Morgan made it 21-21. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they were unable to reclaim the advantage and, after a defensive stop, Santo finished the game with three straight serves for points.
“I was very impressed with how we played the second set,” said Cardington coach Kendra Mosher. “But I figured we would come out with more intensity in the first.”
The Pirate coach noted her team is aware of Highland’s long set-winning streak in league play and had high hopes of being the team to end it.
“We’re really working hard in practice and wanted to end Highland’s set streak,” she said. “But we would get stuck in a couple serve receives. They have some good servers and it was definitely hard to receive their serves.”
Mosher added that she felt her team expended all its energy in that second set, leading the Scots being able to come out strong in the third. Three points from Terrill staked Highland to a quick 4-0 lead. Highland would get as close as 6-5 after Hall tallied three points, but the Scots immediately rebounded with a defensive stop and three points from Steck to go up by five. Four more points by Santo would make the score 15-6 and they would continue to add to that lead in pulling away.
Coach Terrill said that a big key in the third game was simply adjusting to Cardington’s strengths.
“They’re bigger than us and in the second set we played too close to the net and their blockers,” he said. “So we moved back and used our quickness.”
Ashton Terrill finished with 17 kills, while Raina Terry added 10 and Kelsey Walters finished with nine. Both Steck and Santo added three aces. The coach noted that after the tough second set, he was happy to leave Cardington with a three-set win.
“(After the second set) I told them that we’re on the road, so let’s put the third set away and walk out with another road win in the league,” he said. “Road wins in the league are never anything you can expect.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS