CENTERBURG — The Highland Scots girls volleyball team had a little bit of a slow start against their backyard rival, the Centerburg Trojans. Once they got in sync, however, the Scots stopped the Trojans cold, 25-14, 25-8, 25-7, sweeping their Tuesday night Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference matchup.
The Trojans (5-4 overall, 3-2 KMAC) came out strong in the opening set and were able hang with the always-tough Scots (7-1, 5-0) for a while. Centerburg’s Natalie Coffing (eight digs and four kills) and Abbie Miller, each scored twice, in the first set, while teammate Grace Mulpas put up several key assists, keeping the Trojans close, but still down, 11-9.
“When we first came out, I don’t know if were a little anxious, but we were just a little reckless,” said Highland coach Rob Terrill. “We missed five serves in the first set. We’re trying to serve more aggressively this year. We were a little out of control in that first set, but after that, I thought we pretty much kicked it into gear and played well.”
The Scots started to open things up, a little bit, with scores from Raina Terry (23 kills) and big hit by teammate Gena West (six kills), widening the Scots’ lead to 15-11. Then, it was Terry again, off an assist by teammate Lillee Keltner, making it 16-11.
“I told my girls to come out and compete and, I think, they did a really good job of that in the first set,” said Centerburg coach Rachel Walpole, “They did a good job of trying to read and be in the correct positions at the right time. Our team is getting better.”
Highland’s Kendall Stover (10 kills) scored on a kill. That was followed by a kill from teammate Abby Eusey (two aces) to give the Scots a 20-14 advantage as they went on to win the first set.
Once the Scots got the first set win, everything seemed to fall into place for them. Keltner, the Scots’ varsity setter since she was called up from the jayvee to fill in for the injured Ashlynn Belcher earlier this season, distributed the ball confidently. First to Terry. Then to West and then, Makenna Belcher, for scores. Throw in strong serving from teammate Darcie Walters (four aces) and the Scots took a second set lead of 14-3, going on to win the set easily.
“I had not been a setter for a while, so it was hard to get back into the groove at first,” Keltner said. “Fortunately, my teammates have been so positive and they have helped me with everything. They keep giving me positive feedback and that makes it so much easier. I’ve been working a lot with the middle (hitters) on getting the timing, like Gena (West), Emma (West) and Abby (Eusey). We have been working on how high my sets should be. Also, I’ve been working with Kendall (Stover) on the back side and how high to set her. I just work on getting the ball wherever they need it.”
The down side of this (if there is one) is that it will give Terrill some hard choices when Ashlynn Belcher comes back.
“But that’s a good problem to have,” Terrill said, “Ashlynn goes to the doctor tomorrow, so we’ll know more about what the scenario is. Our kids are good kids and they know that the team comes first.”
Keltner set nearly all of her teammates with her passing in the third and final set. Then, with the Scots leading 10-3, Highland’s Savanna Whisman stepped up to serve. Whisman landed a pair of aces and was lights out at the service line.
“This is my first year on varsity, so I’m really trying to contribute to the team,” Whisman said, “I try to be enthusiastic and uplift everyone in practice. It was really exciting to get in there. It was my first time, getting a big run like that on the varsity.”
When Whisman was finished, her team was winning the third set, 19-3, enroute to victory.
“Savanna came in at the end and did very well,” Terrill said. “I can use her to spell Raina in the back row. She’s a senior and she’s good in her role, stepping in there. We needed her tonight and she did great.”
Also for Centerburg Noa Sesma had 11 digs and Taylor Scowden had six digs.
The Highland freshmen (7-0) and JV (7-1) both won their matches over Centerburg, 2-0.
Highland will host Danville on Thursday, while the Trojans will travel to Cardington. Both KMAC contests start at 7:30 p.m.