MILLBURY — The road to the state final four can sometimes seem like an out of control roller coaster. Huge climbs, big dips and some curves that make you feel a little nauseous.
But, for those able to survive those ups and downs to arrive at the promised land, the feeling is amazing.
Highland’s volleyball team and its fans rode the final roller coaster Saturday, and while it was one wild and bumpy ride, it made for a long and tremendous celebration as they advanced to the state for the first time in school history. The Scots beat Huron, 25-11, 19-25, 18-25, 25-20, 15-7 in the Division III regional finals Saturday at Millbury Lake High School.
“It’s unbelievable. I cannot have a better team to be going to state with because we’re all best friends and want to play for each other. It’s amazing,” said senior Ashton Terrill.
The Scots (27-1) figured out pretty early it was going to be a long and tough ride when the four-time state champion Tigers stared down the team during pregame introductions. Highland, especially Terrill, would not be intimidated, though, rolling to an early 6-1 lead. Terrill had three of her teamhigh 22 kills in that opening stretch. The Scots cruised to an easy 25-11 victory in the first set.
But, that’s when the coaster started flinging everyone around.
Huron (24-3) changed up its attack and its blocking scheme, taking the Scots out of any rhythm. The Tigers used a 6-0 run to close out the second set and then used a 12-2 run in the third to take control of the match.
The chessmatch between coaches swung back to Highland’s favor in the fourth when the Scots were able to find the weakness in the Tiger defense. A 12-3 run late in the set helped give the Scots enough cushion to force a deciding fifth set.
“It was a huge chess match because he would change something, then I would change something,” said Highland coach Rob Terrill. “We were getting kills down the line so he moved that over and started giving up six. It took us a while to realize and get the ball there. It’s one thing to say it, but when that ball’s flying, to actually get it there is another. We finally started scoring, but it took us a set or two to do it.”
One big key in the Scots’ resurgence in the fourth set was the play of Kelsey Walters and Raina Terry. The senior and freshman both started swinging the big hammers, putting a lot of pressure on the Tiger defenders. Walters got three big kills to swing the momentum back into Highland’s favor, then Terry finished them off with four big kills of her own.
“We tried to make sure she (Raina) was a big part of things today. We relied too much on Ashton the other night,” coach Terrill said. “Kelsey Walters was awesome, too. How many big kills did she have in that fourth and fifth sets? That was huge.”
“Having the other options was really important today because they were committing on me,” Ashton Terrill said. “Raina, being a freshman, she played the game of her life. We talked to her and told her to play with confidence, and she did.”
From there it was who had more left in the tank. The Scots’ big trio made sure the comeback was complete, finishing off the Tigers in style. Terrill and Terry both had four kills in the deciding set, while Walters had two.
“We won that first one easy and all of a sudden, the landscape changed. They (Huron) just played lights out that second and third set. It was all we could do to keep our heads above water,” said coach Terrill. “I’m so proud of the girls to come back in that fourth set and win. Then get to that fifth set and keep hammering. I’m just so proud of them.”
Terrill finished with 22 kills to lead the Scots. Terry added 20 and Walters nine, while Taylor Belcher chipped in with four kills and three blocks. The team also blocked eight Huron spikes for points.
Highland will now travel to Wright State University on Friday for the state semifinals. The Scots will play Tuscarawas Valley (26-1), a 28-26, 25-19, 17-25, 25-17 winner over Adena. The match will begin at 4 p.m.