By ROB HAMILTON
Highland’s volleyball win at Northmor Tuesday night didn’t just improve their record to 7-0 in the league and 13-0 overall, but set a milestone that illustrates their stranglehold over the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference over the past few years.
After taking the first set of their 25-17, 25-7, 25-15 win, the Scots had claimed 100 sets in a row in league competition. Their last dropped set was their first in a match against Buckeye Valley in October of 2012 (when they were in the Red Division). They bounced back to win the next three in that match and currently have a streak of winning 102 straight over 34 matches.
In going undefeated over the first 13 matches of this season, the Scots have maintained their excellence despite graduating five seniors from last year’s team, including All-Ohioan Kam Terry and All-MOAC players Carley Gahm and Lexi Winklefoos.
“I think it pays off that we play a lot,” said head coach Rob Terrill. “We lost five, but had eight letter-winners back and this year, we have six seniors, but we play 13. It’s good to keep the young kids going — it’s vital.”
Another vital thing for the Scots is their ability to go on scoring runs, as they were able to put up a lot of consecutive points on their serves. In the first game, the Knights (8-5, 4-3 in the league) were able to fight them closely for much of the set. However, with the score 20-17 in favor of the Scots, they were able to quickly end the game with five straight points by Bridget Oder.
That momentum would carry them through a very quick second game. Brogin Denman opened the set with three quick points. Two points from Northmor’s Karlee Carroll were able to tie the score at 4-4, but Highland got a stop and then received three points from Taylor Belcher to regain the lead for good.
With the score 10-6 Highland, they got five points from Sierra Mailey and then closed the game with nine more from Jorden Goodman.
Northmor coach Kara Wright noted that her team’s troubles with the Scots began with Highland’s serving.
“They serve very aggressively and that hurts us,” she said. “I felt we did a better job of getting block touches on their hitters, but we don’t have the ability to swing as hard as they swung on us.”
The Knights scored the first point of the third game and were able to stay with their guests for some time, tying the score at 7-7 on two points from Kelsie Fike, but Highland’s offense would explode down the stretch. Bailey Santo tallied nine straight points to turn an 8-7 lead into a 10-point advantage.
After Northmor got a defensive stop and two Anna Donner points to close within seven, a Scot stop and five points from Marlese Ferguson put them on the verge of victory at 23-10. While Northmor got a pair of defensive points, as well as two from Rayanna Loyer and one more from Jordyn Zoll, they would not be able to catch up to Highland, as the visitors took home the win.
Terrill feels that one of his team’s biggest strengths is the versatility of the players.
“We’re working hard to vary our offense,” he said. “We can attack from either side, while a lot of teams have tough outside hitting or tough middles. We want to vary to keep teams on their toes. We have kids who are versatile and can play different positions and we’re doing that.”
Tuesday’s match marked the halfway point of the league season. For Wright, a big goal for the second half is simply to play more consistently and to maintain positive momentum.
“Every so often, it shows that we’re a little younger,” she said. “We’d like a couple matches back to play with the momentum I’ve seen in other nights or game one tonight. We’ll look to improve from where we are.”
For Highland, Terrill is looking to gauge his team’s improvement compared to his opponents down the stretch.
“Elgin is playing Centerburg tonight (a Tuesday match won by the Trojans) to get to sole possession of second place,” he said. “Now the challenge when we play Elgin Thursday is who has improved more. We have to be ready every night.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS