Highland got off to a good start in the Division II volleyball tournament by dispatching a solid River Valley squad by scores of 25-14, 25-13 and 25-13.
Head coach Rob Terrill said his team wanted to play tough opposition right from the beginning of the tournament — such as the Vikings, who entered postseason play with a 14-8 record — in order to get quality match experience in the early rounds.
“I didn’t want us to get 25-30 aces and not even get a practice in,” he said of his goals for an opening-round match. “I told the girls we did what teams don’t normally do, so we have to go out and do it.”
Also helping the Scots prepare for the tournament was a challenging non-conference schedule that was loaded with Division I teams.
“Every non-league game we played was Division I,” he said. “We had a great time there, even if we lost a few.”
Against the Vikings, defeat was never a real possibility. Highland opened the first game with four quick points from Makenna Belcher and then got one from Ashlynn Belcher and five from Darcie Walters to take a 12-3 lead. While the team slowed down offensively for a while, allowing their opponents to get within a 17-13 margin, they would finish the set quickly.
After a defensive point put them up 18-13, they got two points from Ashlynn Belcher and four from Walters to finish with a 25-14 win.
Highland took advantage of strong net play to get the win, regularly reaching over to kill Viking passes that strayed too close to the net.
“We targeted one area of the court where they had trouble serve receiving,” he said. “That gave us more opportunities at the net and our girls like to hit.”
The second game was much like the first. Two points by Ashlynn Belcher, three by Walters and four from Lillee Keltner staked the team to a 13-4 lead, but RV bounced back to close within a 15-13 score. They wouldn’t get any closer, though, as the Scots ended a two-point run with a defensive score and then Ashlynn Belcher served nine straight points to turn a closely-contested set into a 12-point win.
Highland controlled things for nearly all the third game. Four points by Ashlynn Belcher staked the Scots to a 5-2 lead. After increasing that margin to a 14-7 score, they got six in a row from Makenna Belcher to reach the 20-point mark before putting the finishing touches on the win to improve to 19-4.
Raina Terry led the way at the net with 17 kills and five blocks. Kendall Stover added eight kills and six blocks, while Gena West had four kills and five blocks and Makenna Belcher tallied six kills. Also, Ashlynn Belcher finished with four aces.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS