In their bid to win a second straight MOAC volleyball title after moving back to that conference from that KMAC, Highland got a big home win over River Valley Thursday by scores of 25-23, 25-13 and 25-19.
“It’s always going to be a fight with River Valley,” said Highland coach Rob Terrill, whose team beat the Vikings in four sets at River Valley earlier in the year. “It’s just good to get back to the MOAC and have those rivalries we used to have. That’s what we get from coach (Jayne) Klingel and River Valley.”
While Highland was able to get four straight points from Zoya Winkelfoos to jump out to a 6-2 lead in the first set, it would not be easy to fend off the Vikings, who battled back to briefly take the lead at 17-16. However, with the score tied at 17, the Scots got a pair of points from Alexis Eusey to regain the lead.
River Valley would be able to tie the score and keep it close, but with the Scots holding a 23-22 lead, they got one point from Kameron Stover. The Vikings got a defensive point, but Highland responded with one of their own to edge their opponents by two.
Terrill noted that his team may have been a bit rusty due to not seeing much activity on the court in the past couple weeks.
“I’m proud of the girls,” he said. “That’s the second time we’ve played in two weeks. So, it’s just been tough on the girls. It was good to get on the court and play. That first set, we came out and we were smacking each other back and forth and we were able to pull it out in the end. I think that really helped us going into set two — to get a little bit of breathing room.”
After winning that first set, the Scots jumped out to a fast start in the second and didn’t let up. One point by Larsen Terrill and two each from Camryn Miller and Winkelfoos staked the team to a 7-2 lead. With the score 13-8, they got four in a row by Miller to open up a commanding lead in a set they would win 25-13.
A big key for the Scots was their ability to extend plays by hustling, as players regularly dove onto the floor to keep the ball alive.
“You never know,” said Terrill. “You get a hand on it and your teammates support you and great things can happen. I challenged them to get gritty again and keep those balls alive and support each other.”
The third set would be more evenly contested. River Valley held a 10-9 lead partway into it, but Highland responded with a defensive point followed by two from Terrill. With the score 13-11 in favor of the Scots, Miller added two more.
Three from Stover would make it 20-13, but a four-point run by the Vikings kept them in it at 20-17. The Scots would finish strongly, though, getting points from Brooke Schott and Terrill in finishing off the set and match.
Stover finished with 23 kills and 11 digs for Highland. Terrill tallied 40 assists and 16 digs, while Schott contributed nine kills, Eusey had seven kills and 11 digs and Winkelfoos added five kills and 13 digs.
Coach Terrill noted that the match with River Valley started off a frenetic finish to the regular season, with a couple make-up matches, as well as some outings against very tough competition.
“Now we’re going to play five in eight days again,” he said. “It’s not just five in eight days, it’s River Valley, then we got to Hartley, who’s number one in the state, and then we turn around and play Galion on Monday. We still have Clear Fork and Harding to play next week to finish out the league. And we have Homecoming tomorrow night and three of our girls are on the Homecoming court.”
However, the coach looks at that busy schedule as great preparation for the postseason.
“Our non-league schedule, we keep it tough,” he said. “And it’s been a good move for us to go back to the MOAC because I think it’s more competitive overall. Nothing to take away from the KMAC, it’s just bigger schools. We’re in the middle size-wise in the MOAC and we were the biggest in the KMAC. It’s a good stretch for us here to see what we’re made of and see what changes we’ll have to make going into the tournament.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS