By ROB HAMILTON
Thursday was a banner night for Highland volleyball’s six seniors, as they topped Northmor 25-13, 25-12, 25-14 in the final home regular season game of their high school careers.
That win gave the class, consisting of Brogin Denman, Marlese Ferguson, Elora Stiltner, Jorden Goodman, Sierra Mailey and Mariah Daye, a 40-0 Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference record over the past three years. Furthermore, they didn’t lose a set during that time, winning all 120 over those 40 matches.
“I’m just excited for our seniors,” said head coach Rob Terrill. “They’ve had quite a legacy going 40-0 during the last three years and not losing a set over that time. They’re great kids who’ve worked hard to be 20-1 this year and in three years, 72-5. The only two teams they’ve lost to in Division III were Versailles when they won state and Versailles when they were number one in state.”
The Scots gave the Knights the same problems they did when the teams met earlier in the year at Northmor, as they controlled most of the action at the net and kept the Knights from getting into an offensive rhythm.
“They’ve gotten a lot stronger as hitters and did a good job of getting us out of any kind of offensive system,” said Knight coach Kara Wright.
Highland, meanwhile, was able to go on multiple scoring runs, allowing them to pull away in all three sets. Leading 7-4 early in the first game, they got two points from Goodman, six from Bridget Oder and three more from Denman to explode out to a 20-7 advantage.
While the Knights got a defensive stop and then scored three points on the serving of Karlee Carroll, they would not be able to get back into the game to fall behind 1-0 to their hosts.
Northmor would jump out to an early lead in the second game behind two points by Jordyn Zoll. However, leading 5-4, they would surrender six straight points to Ashton Terrill to fall behind. The Knights would not score another offensive point in the set, allowing the Scots to pull away for the win.
Leading 14-9, they got one point each from Taylor Belcher and Denman, before Terrill added five and was subbed out for Daye, who added a point. Northmor would get a defensive stop, but trailed 24-12. After the Scots returned the favor on defense, they had a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match.
“We have a hard time of containing their hitters and they do a good job of breaking our defense down,” said Wright.
Terrill noted that when his team is able to execute, they can be tough to stop.
“We can play a little bit of defense and have good ball control,” he said. “When our serving’s tough and our defense is tough, we just have to keep the ball in play. We’re just blessed to have kids who work so hard.”
The Knights got off to a quick start in the third game, getting three points from Kelsie Fike to take an early lead. However, the Scots responded with two from Belcher to keep the score tight. Highland’s defense would again step up, as after a point by Cristianna Boggs put Northmor in front 7-6, they would not give up another point to the Knight offense.
Both Goodman and Denman scored once for the Scots. Then, leading 16-12, they got five from Oder to jump out to a commanding lead, which they would maintain until the game had ended.
With only one regular-season match remaining, Wright is focused on the tournament. Her Knights will host Fairbanks on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“It will be a pretty even match,” she said. “I anticipate a good defensive game. It depends on who has that motivation and drive at the end of the season to come out on top.”
The Scots are also gearing up for the postseason. Terrill noted that his team got a taste of tough competition when they lost a close match with Bishop Hartley on Monday and will get another Saturday at state-ranked Division II Jonathan Alder — matches he expects will have his team prepared for sectionals and districts.
“We keep reminding them that it doesn’t just happen,” he said of the deep postseason runs the Scots have had the past two years. “We have to maintain that high level of play.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS