DANVILLE — The Highland Scots picked up a three-set win over Danville Thursday in both teams’ Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference opener, led by five players with five or more kills.
“The girls know that this is one of our top goals is winning the league and this was our first step tonight,” Highland coach Rob Terrill said. “I thought we had a real good focus tonight.”
Highland got off to a solid start in the first set, running the score quickly up to 8-2. An ace by Highland’s Bridget Oder, followed by a kill from Ashlynn Belcher pushed the Scot lead to 13-3, forcing a Danville timeout. Raina Terry imposed her will midway through the set, with a kill, followed by an ace to give Highland a 19-4 lead. Despite two more points for the Blue Devils, including one off a tip from Ally Bower, Highland closed the door on the 25-6 set with a kill from Gena West.
“To be honest with you, our team came out a little intimidated,” Danville coach Danielle Dawson said. “They know Highland’s capability and Highland is a very good team. Compared to our game Tuesday, our girls weren’t anywhere near the same.”
Highland picked up the second set right where it left off, scoring six-straight points, including an ace by Belcher. Danville’s Madisyn Neizelt stopped the run with a kill to put the score at 6-1, but Highland rattled off another eight points, including two aces from West. With only minor disruptions, the Scots racked up another 11 points to secure the second set win, 25-5.
In the third set, Highland continued more of the same, but with some newer faces on the floor. The Scots mixed in some bench players to try and get them more varsity experience, and there was really no drop from the starting squad.
“We’re trying to get all of them on the same page. I thought it was great in that last set that the girls that were in there stepped in,” Terrill said. “We sprinkled in some starters with some girls off the bench and they maintained exactly what we have been doing. That was important to us.”
Highland scored the first point off a kill from Abby Eusey and were quickly up 3-0, before expanding in to an 11-1 advantage, with eight of those points coming with Kelsee Bargnesi at the service line. A series of errors by Danville continued to work the score in Highland’s favor, with the visitors racking up an 18-2 lead. A service error, followed by a tip by CeCe Newbold and another Highland error brought the Danville points up to six, but four-straight points by the Scots ended the set and the match.
Terry and Eusey paced Highland with eight kills apiece on the night. Makenna Belcher chipped in seven kills, while West kicked in another six. West also notched two aces on the night, a category led by Ashlynn Belcher, with four aces. Christina Rose rounded out the top contributors with five kills.
Despite the loss, Danville’s Dawson knows its just a matter of adjusting the mindset of her players moving forward.
“We have amazing athletes and great volleyball players,” Dawson said. “It’s just going to be a matter of making them understand their abilities and making them confident in themselves.”
Danville returns to action at home Saturday, with JV and varsity games set for 10 and 11:30 a.m., respectively, against Lucas.
“What I told them in the locker room is they have a full season ahead of them,” Dawson said. “They have to understand their capabilities and they have nothing to lose. Every game they need to give it their all and they’re going to walk away winners one way or another.”
Highland’s next matchup is also Saturday on the road against Big Walnut, with the varsity contest slated for 11 a.m.
“It was great to step into the KMAC and get that first win and now Saturday we go to Big Walnut,” Terrill said. “We beat them last year, but then they went to the state final. We want to do that too so we will be anxious to get there and see if we are ready for that next step.”