In their second year as a Division II volleyball team, the Highland Scots advanced to their second district final, dispatching River Valley Wednesday night by scores of 25-8, 25-20, 25-13 in a match hosted by Licking Heights High School.
In the early going, it looked like the match would be a quick win for the Scots. After opening with a defensive point, Highland got five scoring serves from Ashlynn Belcher to take an early 6-0 lead. The Vikings would only score on three serves in the first set, while Highland responded with two points from Bridget Oder, three by Darcie Walters, one from Kendall Stover and eight from Kelsee Bargnesi to pull away for the dominating win.
However, things wouldn’t be so easy in the second set. Three points from both Belcher and Stover helped stake the Scots to a 10-4 lead, but the team started to struggle with RV’s serve, giving up a pair of points to Madi Lott and four to Lily Arledge. Arledge’s last point gave the Vikings a 13-12 lead, forcing Highland coach Rob Terrill to call a time out.
“Again, our youth showed in the second set and we made a lot of mistakes,” said Terrill. “We let them play through it a bit and not give them a lifeline every time. We knew they’d be up-and-down and we had to be ready. In the second half, they served a little bit harder. They stepped up a little bit and we backed off a bit.”
After the time out, the Scots got a defensive stop to tie the score at 13 and then got one point each from Belcher, Oder and Walters to surge in front by an 18-15 margin. Two more points from Stover made it 21-16, but a defensive point by the Vikings followed by three from Katie Klingel brought them within one point. Highland would rebound to take the set, though, getting a defensive stop and then three points from Bargnezi to edge RV 25-20.
While the Vikings would get out to a quick start in the third set, riding a pair of points from Arledge to a 3-1 lead, Highland would dominate the rest of the way. Four points from Walters put the Scots in front 7-4 and four from Stover, three from Bargnezi and two from Makenna Belcher boosted that lead to a 19-8 score.
RV would get a defensive point and four straight on the serving of Lott to close within six, but the Scots slammed the door, getting a defensive stop and five straight scores by Ashlynn Belcher to reach the 25-point mark.
“We just went back to basics,” said Terrill of his team’s third-set play. “Being a good ball-control team and good efficiency. We just made them beat us.”
Makenna Belcher led the team with 12 kills, while Raina Terry tallied nine, Gena West had five and both Abby Eusey and Stover finished with four. Bargnesi had four aces in the match and both Ashlynn Belcher and Stover contributed three.
Terrill noted after the match that his team’s tournament path becomes very difficult now. Next up for his team, which is ranked second in the state in Division II, will be state-ranked Jonathan Alder on Saturday. Awaiting the winner will be one of three other state-ranked Central District teams (Big Walnut, Granville or Bishop Hartley) in the regional semifinals.
“When you have five of the top 10 teams in the district, you have a gauntlet,” said the coach. “We just have to play — all five teams are very talented.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS