Three years after reaching the state Final Four in Division III volleyball, the Highland Scots have duplicated that feat — in Division II.
Competing at Heath High School against Dover on Saturday, the Scots were able to dispatch their opponents in three games by scores of 25-17, 25-13 and 25-21.
“The girls played really great,” said head coach Rob Terrill. “We were able to keep an even keel. We knew Dover would swing and swing and swing, so we tried to be disciplined on defense.”
That strategy worked out well for the team, as they forced their opponents into a lot of unforced errors in the first set. Kendall Stover had four kills in that set, while Makenna Belcher added three.
“Out here, I felt if we could get the upper hand, we could get on top and make them feel a little nervous,” said Terrill.
In the second game, it was Ashlynn Belcher and Raina Terry leading the way, as those two girls combined for nine kills, with the rest of the team adding six.
The third set was close in the early going, but Highland was able to pull away to take a 19-14 lead. Dover would rally within a two-point margin at 22-20 and 23-21, but a defensive point followed by a serve for a score by Ashlynn Belcher would send Highland back to Wright State’s Nutter Center for the second time in four years.
A few of Highland’s players have experience from that first trip to the Final Four, as Terry and Gena West saw a good deal of court time and Darcie Walters was a bench player.
“We came in and knew what we wanted and weren’t leaving without it,” said Terry.
The senior star is hoping her team can learn from those experiences from 2016 to have an improved showing in Dayton.
“We’ve just got to give it all we’ve got,” she said. “Last time, we lost in four and I think we let up a bit and let the pressure get to us.”
West added that she’s very excited about being able to compete in the Final Four again.
“So blessed,” she said. “We’ve been wanting to go back to state. Us seniors told each other this is our last chance. Hopefully, I’ll be a little less nervous and a little more relaxed. I’ll be like a little kid again and be so happy to be there.”
Terrill, who felt his team was well-prepared by its schedule, noting that they played or scrimmaged 11 teams who were playing in regional finals, was pleased to make it back to state, especially considering how tough the competition is in Division II.
“I didn’t realize when we made the move how tough Division II is,” he said. “It’s been 19 years since a public school won with Galion in 2000. We want to disrupt that a little bit.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS