Highland was able to hit their way past a game Cardington squad in Tuesday night KMAC volleyball action.
In the Scots’ 25-18, 25-15, 25-20 win, they tallied a season-best 54 kills — which averaged out to 18 per game. Despite that performance, coach Rob Terrill felt his team could have had a better performance.
“I felt we didn’t play good defense,” he said. “I thought our offense played good, but the defense was not there where it needed to be. I thought Cardington played well. They took good swings and stayed engaged in the game. They didn’t make many errors. We probably had more unforced errors.”
Serving was one aspect of the game that Terrill felt could have been better. The team missed on 10 attempts in the match, leading to slow starts in the first and third sets.
“We’ve been serving more aggressively and with that comes more errors,” he said. “I just wish they didn’t come in bunches.”
Highland had three misses in their first trip through the line-up in the first game. Along with one point from Kyleigh Bonnette and two from Cadie Long, those misses helped the Pirates jump out to a 7-5 lead. Adding the Pirates’ good news — senior Hannah Wickline recorded a kill on her team’s first point of the game to become the school’s all-time leader in that stat.
“We talked in the locker room when she gets her first kill, we’ll stop the game and that sparked us,” said Cardington coach Ryan Treese. “She works her butt off and is one of the best teammates I’ve ever seen.”
However, the Scots would go on a run to take control of the game, getting one point from Makenna Belcher, two from Ashlynn Belcher, five from Darcie Walters and one from Raina Terry to jump in front by a 20-13 margin.
While Cardington got a defensive score and one point from Long to trim their deficit to five, Highland would be able to hold on to claim the first set.
They would then get off to a fast start in the second, getting a defensive point and three from Ashlynn Belcher to lead 4-0. The Lady Pirates got scores from Liz Long and Wickline, but Kendall Stover picked up another three points to put Hihgland up 10-5.
Cardington would get within an 11-9 margin, but were unable to score on their final six trips to the service line in the game. One point from Walters and two from Terry allowed Highland to expand their lead to an 18-12 score and four from Emma West put them on the cusp of taking a 2-0 lead in the match.
The third game would be much harder for the Scots to win. After taking an early lead on a serve by Makenna Belcher, the team fell in an 8-6 hole after two scores each from Wickline and Cadie Long. Both teams would then struggle to score on offense, with Liz Long mustering one point for Cardington and Ashlynn Belcher doing the same for the Scots.
Trailing 15-14, though, Highland was able to break through, as Lillee Keltner scored four straight points to give her team the lead. Two points from Eusey made the score 21-16. Cardington would get a stop and two points from Izzy Wickline to get within a two-point score, the Scots were able to finish off the match. A defensive point and two from Makenna Belcher gave them a 24-19 lead and, after Cardington regained service, a stop finished the game and match.
“We were up 15-13 and maybe if we stop that run, it’d be different,” said Treese, who was pleased with how his team fought against a state-ranked Division II club when they are the smallest Division III team in the Central District. “It’s really tough to score on a team that good, but compared to the first time we played them, we’ve grown so much. It sucks to say you’re happy with a loss, but I’m happy with the way we played.”
Terrill, whose team got 20 kills from Terry, 13 from Makenna Belcher and nine from Stover, is now one game closer to earning a seventh straight league title between the MOAC and KMAC. The team is 9-0 in the KMAC, placing them one game in front of Fredericktown (who they play Thursday) with five left to play.
“That’s always our first goal, winning the league,” he said. “Today would have been my dad’s 85th birthday. He passed away seven years ago and that’s when the streak started.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS