After making the Division II state volleyball championship game last year, the Highland Scots are looking for another deep playoff run in 2020.
They took the first step towards that on Wednesday, as they dispatched visiting Utica by scores of 25-8, 25-4 and 25-15 to advance to the district semifinals.
“We knocked off our list winning the league championship,” said head coach Rob Terrill. “So next up is winning a district championship. I was pleased with our effort and focus.”
Highland dominated the first two sets of the match, only giving Utica two offensive points out of the 12 they scored over that duration.
With a 1-0 lead in the first set, they got three points by Ashlynn Belcher. One point from Abby Eusey, four from Zoya Winkelfoos, two from Emma West and one from Makenna Belcher helped the team boost their lead to a 17-6 margin. Then, with the score 18-8, Ashlynn Belcher finished the match with seven straight points.
Highland took that momentum into the second set, as Makenna Belcher scored four points and Ashlynn Belcher added 10 straight to stake the team to a quick 15-2 lead. Two each from Brylinn Tuggle, Kendall Stover and Winkelfoos, as well as one from Brooklyn Croy, proved enough to boost the team to a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match.
The third set was more closely contested, as Highland played a lot of girls to give them tournament experience.
“We mixed in a lot of players,” said Terrill. “We played 14 people and 12 in the last set. They had good enthusiasm and focus.”
The team got off to a good start behind three points from Ashlynn Belcher and three more from Camryn Miller. ONe from Stover made it 10-2. With Highland holding an 18-9 lead, Utica did go on a 6-1 run to make things a bit interesting, but the Scots finished the set strongly. After getting a defensive point, Stover scored three points and then gave way to Morgan Snider, who tallied the final two points of the match.
While the scores were lopsided in two of the three sets, Terrill felt that Utica provided a good opening-round match for his team.
“Utica is a nice team,” he said. “They played hard and didn’t give up and they got excited after a point or two and that helps us.”
Ashlynn Belcher finished with a triple-double, tallying 19 assists, 13 aces and 10 digs, while adding seven kills. Makenna Belcher finished with 10 kills, 11 digs and three aces. Stover led the team with 14 kills, while Tuggle led in digs with 14. Also, Winkelfoos tallied 12 assists.
Terrill noted that his team sets goals for their matches — something to prepare them for the tougher competition they’ll face down the road.
“We had some goals to start with,” he said. “We’d check those out at timeouts between sets. We know our route to districts, regionals and state, if we’re fortunate enough, is loaded with tough teams.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS