PATASKALA — Since moving up to Division II three years ago, the Highland volleyball team has been knocking on the regional door.
Saturday, they finally opened it, beating Utica, 25-15, 25-18, 23-25, 25-16, in a hard-fought district final matchup at Licking Heights.
“We’ve been knocking on the door for the last two years. It’s sweet to finally get there,” said Highland coach Rob Terrill. “Give credit to the seniors. We took a difficult course to get here, but we were prepared and hung in there to win.”
The Scots had advanced to the district title game the last two years, but were unable to advance. The last district title came in 2016 when they were in Division III and advanced to the state final four.
It looked like it might be a cakewalk for the Scots (22-4) after winning the first set convincingly. They had the Redskins (22-4) on their heels with strong play at the net and some impressive serving.
The Redskins made them work a little harder for the second set victory, even taking a 9-5 lead at one point. But, a 7-1 run got things back in control for Highland.
Utica picked things back up in the third set, using a 9-3 run to get back in the set, then a 4-0 run to win it.
“The first two sets, we had four digs and then we ended up with 30. It was about us being on our toes and attacking. Instead, we were back on our heels,” said Utica coach Laurie Londot. “We finally started believing in ourselves.”
Utica kept the momentum going early in the fourth set, taking a 6-3 lead and were still tied at 11. But, Highland’s Raina Terry took over at that point, blocking one spike for a point and smacking three kills as the Scots scored eight straight points.
“We kept talking about staying within our game plan. A couple of times, we got a bit frantic. We just needed to take a breath,” Terrill said.
Terry finished the day with 26 kills to lead the Scots. Kendall Stover added 13 kills, while Makenna Belcher had 10 kills and Ashlynn Belcher had six kills and four aces.
Emily Londot lead the Redskins with 31 kills. Bella Ellis added four kills.
“We went all in. I’m proud of them. We wanted to leave here knowing we left it on the floor. We left it on the floor,” said Utica coach Laurie Londot.
Highland will now play New Concord John Glenn in the Division II Regional tournament on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Heath High School.
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