SPARTA — The Highland Scots volleyball team put together an impressive three sets on its way to a home win Thursday over East Knox, 25-5, 25-11 and 25-14.
“We’ve started out slow in the last two with Fredericktown and Cardington, so we wanted to come out strong in the first set and I think we accomplished that,” Highland coach Rob Terrill said. “I think we were pretty aggressive all night long. Even when we made mistakes, they were pretty aggressive mistakes.”
After surrendering the first point on a kill error, Highland put the pedal to the metal in the first set, rattling off 10-straight points, led by four kills from Raina Terry and three aces from Kacie O’Leary.
The Bulldogs were not at full strength to battle back in the first set, or for the entirety of the match. Junior outside hitter Hallie Rine went down with an ankle injury in pregame warmups and was sidelined for the match.
“Highland is very tough as always,” East Knox coach Allie Henthorn said. “Our girls came out a little flat after a really bad warmup where we lost a player. … That definitely brought our first set down, but then they had to fight back and they did the best they could.
“Hallie is a special kid and they all know that and they all love her,” Henthorn added. “It’s really hard for them. It’s hard for them to overcome something they can’t control.”
Up 10-1 in the first, the Scots continued their solid play, taking a 15-point lead (17-2), capped by a kill from Gena West. West expanded on the team’s lead with another kill to put the score at 22-4, forcing a Bulldog timeout. East Knox scored its final point by a block from Kiley Totten and Meggan Bartok to put the score at 23-5, but a kill by West, followed by an ace from Kelsee Bargnesi ended the set.
Starting in the second set, Highland did more of the same, rushing out to a 9-3 lead. After going down 11-4, Bartok notched a kill for the Bulldogs to cut the lead to 11-5, but the hosts continued rolling, scoring on back-to-back aces from Bridget Oder to put the advantage into the double-digits (17-7). A tip by Bulldog Reign Hernandez cut the lead to nine and the margin was again at nine at 18-9, but Highland kept East Knox at bay with double-digit leads to the end. An ace by Makenna Belcher ended the set.
East Knox picked up its game in the third set and traded several points with Highland to open the frame, putting the score at 6-4 in the Scots’ favor early on.
“It was about finding their holes, finding their weak points and finding out what we can do to cover ourselves a little bit better,” Henthorn said of the better play in the second and third sets. “I think the second and third set were about fighting back and being aggressive and trying to overcome anything that we can control.”
Up only two, Highland started to add some separation, thanks to an ace from Darcie Walters that gave the home team a 10-5 edge. The Scots’ lead ballooned to eight points (15-7), but East Knox reigned them in a bit, with an ace from Ashley VanHoose cutting the lead to 15-9, but that was as close as the Bulldogs got. Three aces in a row by Belcher continued to increase the lead (20-9) and a final kill by West ended the night.
Terry paced the Scots at the net with 19 kills, while West pitched in another 11, which she paired with three blocks. Belcher had four kills and four aces, while Ashlynn Belcher notched 42 assists. Oder had four aces, while Abby Eusey and Christina Rose each had four kills.
“We want to be diverse in our offense,” Terrill said. “Certainly, being a first-team all-state player as a sophomore, teams are going to focus on her (Terry), but I think we’re strong enough in a lot of different areas that we don’t have to rely on her.”
Full stats for East Knox were unavailable.
Highland returns to action Tuesday at home against Northmor, with freshman kicking off at 4:30 p.m. East Knox returns home Tuesday to take on Danville starting at 5:30 p.m. for JV.