For the fifth time in the past nine years, the Highland volleyball team has advanced to regionals.
The Scots claimed a straight sets win over Bloom-Carroll in Saturday’s district final contest hosted by Licking Heights. Scores were 25-10, 25-15 and 25-17. Head coach Rob Terrill noted that it was important for his team to not let up, as the Bulldogs had come back from a 2-0 deficit in the district semis to knock off Hamilton Township.
“It was important,” said the coach of his team getting out to a fast start in the match, “but we saw them down two sets and come back. We couldn’t let up, but I thought we did for a bit.”
Highland got out to a dominant start in the contest. Two points from Zoya Winkelfoos, three from Brylinn Tuggle and four from Kendall Stover helped stake the team to an 11-3 lead. Then, holding a 15-8 advantage, the team got seven in a row from Winkelfoos and never looked back in cruising to a 1-0 lead.
Terrill gave a lot of credit for his team’s performance to seniors Stover and Ashlynn Belcher — a pair of four-year starters.
“Kendall and Ashlynn both are tremendous leaders for us,” he said. “They’re both going to the next level. They bring consistency to the court and a never say die attitude that really helps with our young players.”
After falling into a 5-3 hole in the second set due to a four-point run by Caitlyn Young, the Scots surged in front. Three points from Stover, two by Belcher and two more from Emma West gave Highland a 14-8 advantage. Bloom-Carroll would get no closer than an 18-14 margin and, with a 20-15 lead, the Scots were able to finish off the set behind five straight scoring serves from West.
Neither team could manufacture an advantage for much of the third set. While Highland held a lead for most of it, their opponents were able to keep it close. It looked like three points from Belcher would give the team some breathing room at 17-11, but Bloom-Carroll battled back with two points each from Karman Salmons and Gracie Horn to close within an 18-17 margin.
The Scots had one more run in them, though. After moving in front by two after a defensive point, Alexis Eusey was able to serve out the match with six straight scoring serves, sending her team to regionals.
“We rely on our serving to keep teams out of their system,” said Terrill. “Then we rely on swinging to do the same thing. We’ve been strong serving all year and we needed to be today, especially with Alexis’ run at the end.”
Highland will next play a powerful Gates Mill Gilmour Academy squad on Thursday in the regional hosted by Lexington. Terrill noted that while the opposition is ranked first in the state, his squad has a lot of players with big match experience.
“It’s regionals,” he said. “We’ll just go and play and see what happens. At least half our players were on the state roster (in 2019). Kendall, Ashlynn and Emma were starters and even Larson (Terrlll) and Kamryn (Stover) were ball girls.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS