DAYTON — They’ve been saying it so often, it’s becoming a catch phrase.
“We’re going to state!”
Along the hallways, the Highland varsity volleyball players feel like their feet are barely hitting the floor. They’re going somewhere where no Highland team has played — the Division III state tournament at the Nutter Center in Dayton.
“It’s kind of overwhelming, but it’s so exciting,” Highland senior Ashton Terrill said. “We’ve been talking about it all week. No matter what, we keep saying, ‘We’re going to state!’ They (the other students) have kind of gotten annoyed with us.”
The Scots are enjoying their time in the sun. And why not? They won their third district title in four years a few weeks ago, and advanced to their second regional final last week. Highland trailed, two sets to one, in that match before rallying to win it in five.
Highland (27-1) will challenge Tuscarawas Valley on Friday at 4 p.m. The Nutter Center is located at the campus of Wright State University.
“There’s been a lot of media discussions, and everything that’s required for a big tournament. They have everything down to a minute detail,” said Highland coach Rob Terrill. “There’s a lot more paperwork at state, and with good reason. They want everything done right.”
Terrill has been there before. He’s been to four state final fours as an assistant coach with Elgin, most recently in 2001. He got to the finals twice.
Since then, Terrill took the job at Highland and built what has become nothing short of a dynasty. The Scots haven’t lost a varsity set in conference play in four years, and has advanced to districts in each of the past seven. But it’s not just varsity — the entire program, all the way down to the middle school level and below, is a welloiled machine.
Still, the one thing no Highland volleyball team had ever accomplished is a spot at state. That changes Friday.
“It’s really awesome to get a banner on the wall,” said senior Katie Coffee. “We can show our kids that we got to this point.”
Tuscarawas Valley (26-1) suffered its only defeat in early September to nearby rival Tuscarawas Central Catholic, which is competing in the Division IV state tournament this week.
The Trojans are led by a pair of solid netminders in Kayla Hall and Kierrah Stewart. The two combined this year for 625 kills (about 8.9 per set). Sam Pruett, a senior, has 2.2 kills per set. Pruett has 16 total blocks, which trails only to Sage Peters with 28. What works to Highland’s advantage is that Pruett, who also leads the team in assists with 467, is the tallest player listed for the Trojans, at 5-foot-10.
Ashton Terrill is listed at 5-9, but when she leaps, she reaches higher than anyone on the court. She and freshman Raina Terry combined for 639 kills this season (7.8 per set). Belcher is no slouch at the net with 162 kills. Belcher, who has 425 assists on the year, shares setting duties with Parker Steck (354 assists).
But the real key to Highland’s success this year has been defense. Krista Walters leads the team with 54 total blocks, followed by Terry with 47. Belcher, Terrill, Kelsey Walters and Gena West average more than a block per match. In the back line, sophomore Bridget Oder has 5.9 digs per set, while Terrill has 5.4 digs. Steck, Bailey Santo and Katie Coffee each average more than two digs per set.
If the Scots play their usual game, their performance should outshine the bright lights of the big stage. A victory means a berth in the Division III championship on Saturday at 5 p.m. against either Gilmour Academy or Miami East.
“This shows all the players of the past how we’re doing,” said senior Kelsey Walters. “We’re playing for them.”