SPARTA — The Highland Scots volleyball team allowed only 10 total points in a three-set sweep in the team’s first game of the OHSAA Division II Sectional Tournament over Beechcroft Monday.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get our young kids in and get experience in a tournament setting,” Highland coach Rob Terrill said. “It’s comfortable because it’s home and an opportunity to play against different competition.”
Highland opened up the first set on fire, rushing out to an 8-1 lead, with five of those points coming from a kill, including two from Abby Eusey, and another from an ace. On a Highland error, the lead was cut to 8-2, before another spree of Scot points. Four-straight aces by Kendall Stover put the home team ahead 13-2 and a substitution brought Darcie Walters to the service line, where she served up five aces in a row to push the lead to 20-2. Up 24-2, a kill error staved off the set-point by one, but Makenna Belcher ended the set with a kill, 25-3.
The second set was more of the same, with three of the first five points coming in the form of a Belcher ace, putting Highland ahead 5-0. A tip by Stover nudged the Scots forward 10-1, before a second Cougar point on a Highland error trimmed the lead to 10-2. The home team rattled off six points in a row before another error notched a point for the visitors, putting the score at 16-3. Beechcroft scored again to set the score at 18-4.
Highland stomped on the gas pedal to close out the set, scoring seven-straight. Four of those final points came on four-straight aces from Kacie O’Leary. Starting toward the end of the second set, Terrill began working more of his bench players, including two girls who had never suited up for varsity before, into the lineup.
“Along with our girls that play both JV and varsity during the season, now they can just settle in and just be ready to go varsity-wise,” Terrill said. “For those ones we added, because you can dress 15 for the tournament, it was a wonderful opportunity for them to put on that varsity uniform and then also get in there and get to play a little bit too.”
O’Leary and Belcher combined for seven aces in the second set, while Stover notched four kills.
Terrill kept the lineup from the end of the second set and carried it into the third set, leaving a majority of his more inexperienced players on the floor to gain experience. A kill by Tabitha Arnold got the team on the board first, but back-to-back errors gave Beechcroft its only lead (2-1) of the match. Highland made sure that that lead quickly evaporated.
Emma West stepped to the service line and notched four-straight aces and another two a few points later put the Scots ahead 10-2, before the Cougars scored another point to set the score at 13-3. Arnold took the game in her own hands with a flurry of aces to up the lead to 18-3. After a Cougar error, another Arnold ace added to the lead (20-3) and one final ace from the junior, followed by a kill from Kenzee Bargnesi closed out the set, 25-3.
In the third set, West finished with eight aces, while Arnold added another seven, along with two kills. Bargnesi notched three kills in the frame.
One way that Highland was able to work so many young players in to the lineup is that usual big contributors, Raina Terry and Christina Rose, were kept out of the lineup for the night.
“Raina and Christina are just going through some aches and pains and that’s where you are at this point in the year,” Terrill said. “We played three times last week. … It was a heavy week for us and we wanted to get ready to keep going down the tournament trail. It was time to rest a few and get some younger girls some playing time.”
As the top seed in the bracket, the Scots move on to the second round, where they will host No. 25 Linden McKinley, with a 6 p.m. start. Terrill noted that he hopes to get more of his younger players on the floor to gain varsity experience in Wednesday’s matchup.
“The good part about having 15 on a roster now is that you can fill spots. You don’t have to play people out of position to get them in. It can be a position they are comfortable in,” Terrill said. “To do it at home should be even better. When we control that environment, you’re home and you’re in a position where you know, then we expect them to excel and that’s what the goal will be is to get better on Wednesday.”