By ROB HAMILTON
A powerful Pleasant front line combined with an uncharacteristic amount of mistakes doomed the Highland volleyball team Tuesday when they took on the Spartans at Marion Harding in a Division III district semifinal match.
“I felt we started playing hard midway into the second set, but gave the first set and a half away,” said head coach Rob Terrill after his team’s season ended with a 17-25, 25-27, 24-26 margin,. “We made too many mistakes all around and had 40 errors. Pleasant did a great job of pushing us around the court and making things happen, but a lot of times we crippled ourselves and would have a bad serve or bad pass.”
In that first set, the Scots took an early 6-4 lead thanks to three points serving by Sierra Mailey, but would not be able to hold that advantage. After getting a defensive stop, the Spartans got one point from Arielle Anderson, four from Ciera Greene and three from Kaitlyn Massey to jump in front by a 15-8 margin.
Highland got the ball back and Bridget Oder tallied a pair of points to bring her team within four, but Pleasant would regain possession and get four points from Ashley Anderson to take a 20-11 advantage on their way to taking the first set.
The Spartans then got off to a fast start in the second game, opening with four points from Ashley Anderson. Highland trailed 12-6 when they got their first offensive points of the set, as Brogin Denman scored twice.
Trailing 19-14, the Scots made a run, as, after a defensive stop, Jorden Goodman scored five straight points to give her team a one-point advantage. Unfortunately for Highland, they would not score again on their serve. With the score tied at 24, the Spartans took a one-point lead on Ashley James’ serve. Then, with a 26-25 lead, Arielle Anderson served for the game’s final point to put the Scots one set away from elimination.
“I think in the second set when we finally climbed ahead, I thought we were over the hump,” said Terrill. “Losing that one was hard. I can’t fault the kids’ effort, we just didn’t execute like we needed to.”
The third set played out much the same as the second. After Denman scored one point on her game-opening serve, Pleasant got a stop and then scored six straight points on Anna Schmidt’s serve to jump out to a commanding lead. Compounding Highland’s woes, during that stretch, junior star Ashton Terrill aggravated a leg injury and had to sit out for a few points.
“She has a stress fracture in her lower leg, so we set her a week,” said Coach Terrill. “It’s the whole team, when you lose a player, you have to get over the emotional part of losing a teammate.”
Pleasant would pull ahead by a 14-6 deficit before the Scots started fighting their way back into the match. After getting a stop, the Scots would get one point from Goodman and one more from Denman to close within five at 16-11.
With the score 19-13 in favor of the Spartans, Highland would get four straight from Oder. Pleasant would respond with three straight points, but Highland returned the favor with four, three on serves by Terrill, to close within a 22-21 margin.
The Scots then tied the score at 24-24 on a serve by Kelsey Walters, but Pleasant forced a stop and then closed the game and match on their next serve.
Highland finishes with a 22-3 record. In the match, Terrill finished with 11 kills and 13 digs, Denman had six kills and 23 digs, Oder tallied 14 digs and Taylor Belcher finished with 15 assists. It was the last match for six Scot seniors: Denman, Goodman, Mailey, Marlese Ferguson, Mariah Daye and Elora Stiltner.
“Our seniors’ varsity record, I think they won 85 games in four years — that’s huge,” said Coach Terrill. “They’ve been on the court every day. They’re a good group and it will be hard for the next class to match that.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS