Highland advanced to the Division III district finals in volleyball Tuesday night, but not without a bit of suspense.
The top-seeded Scots dropped the first set to Bishop Ready by a 25-21 margin to fall in an early hole, but recovered to dominate the next two by scores of 25-12 and 25-11 before closing out the Silver Knights by a 25-20 margin in the fourth.
Early on, the Scots struggled to get into sync. Head coach Rob Terrill noted there were several possible factors involved, including the lower ceiling and rafters present in host Buckeye Valley’s gym.
“I guess it could have been nerves a little bit,” he said. “Part had to do with the ceiling. Any more, in the newer gyms, you don’t have to worry about that. I felt we settled down at the end of the (first) set. We just gave them too big of a lead.”
Highland jumped out to a 6-4 advantage early in the opening set, but surrendered five points to Jordan Kuzan to fall behind. After getting a defensive point, the Scots got three from Krista Walters to move in front 10-9, but that lead would not last for long.
Ready reclaimed possession to tie the game and then got two points from Maria Culbertson and five from Samantha Vrancken to move in front 18-11. While the Scots would close within a 23-20 margin late in the game, they would not be able to completely close the gap in falling behind in the match.
Things would be a lot different in the second game. Highland held the Knights scoreless during their first six service attempts and jumped out to a huge lead during that span. Bridget Oder scored one point for the Scots and Taylor Belcher followed with six. Ashton Terrill then scored twice, as did Walters before Parker Steck contributed a point to put Highland up 17-4 in a game they would easily win.
Coach Terrill felt his players’ serving turned things around for the team.
“We’re a very good serving team when we stay aggressive,” he said. “This probably gets us close to 300 aces. I really felt the turning point was when we put that much pressure on their serve receivers.”
That momentum continued into the third game. After falling behind 4-2, the Scots got a defensive point and Belcher added seven straight while serving. Then, with the score 13-7, Highland got another seven-point run on offense from Steck. Bailey Santo added three more and the Scots claimed another quick win to go up 2-1.
It was more of a battle to finish off Ready. After Oder scored three early points to stake the Scots to a 4-0 lead, Ready got the ball back and got six points from Kusan to jump in front 7-4. They would hold that advantage until, with the score 11-8,
Highland got two points from Steck, four from Santo and five from Oder to surge in front by a 21-13 margin. While they would not tally any more offensive points in the game, their defense was sufficient to tally the final four points needed to claim the game and match.
The coach noted that, thanks to some tough competition faced during the season, his team is at a point where they don’t panic after suffering setbacks such as losing the first game.
“After playing four against state-ranked Hartley and beating Jonathan Alder in five, that showed them that we can lose a set and still be okay,” Terrill said. “We really controlled the temp after two-thirds of the way through the first set. I think our serve really did a lot. Once they were out of their system, they were struggling. They just couldn’t set that ball.”
Ashton Terrill finished with 27 kills in the match, while Raina Terry added 19. Belcher finished with nine kills and seven aces, while Oder, Santo and Terrill also were cited for their defense and passing.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS