Science Hill found itself behind the 8-ball way too often for coach Louise Stallworth’s taste Tuesday night in a District 1-AAA volleyball match against Dobyns-Bennett.
Wearing jersey No. 8, the Lady Indians’ middle blocker Ashton Beckner tallied 22 kills and five blocks in a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Lady ’Toppers.
“We didn’t block well,” Stallworth said. “We worked on it, knowing they have a good middle attack. We changed our blocking scheme and it didn’t work in the first game. So I went back to our old scheme and it worked a little better, but it’s still not enough.
“We’re not getting our blocks up fast enough and No. 8 (Beckner), she really has the ability to go up and rotate her body and come inside our middle blocker. I never could get our middle blockers to adjust.”
Led by Beckner, D-B edged Science Hill 25-23 in the first set, only to see the Lady ’Toppers score the final eight points of the second set and win 25-13.
Up 16-15 in the third set, the Lady Indians reeled off five straight points and went on to win 25-21. Science Hill recovered to win the fourth set 25-17 and force a deciding fifth set which the Lady Indians pulled out, 15-12.
The victory put Dobyns-Bennett (37-10) in a late winner’s bracket match against top-seed Sullivan South (42-7). Science Hill will have to win twice tonight to make it to Thursday’s championship round.
The Lady ’Toppers (38-11) face Sullivan Central in an elimination match today at 6 p.m., with the winner to advance to another elimination match scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
In a night of long volleys and big moments, none was bigger than Dobyns-Bennett holding an 11-8 lead in the deciding game and Sasha Morrisette diving to the ground to deny what appeared to be a sure kill by Science Hill’s Gabby Lyon.
“It was momentum, big-time momentum,” Lady Indians head coach Wendy Baker said about Morrisette’s dig. “Whenever you have that momentum and you’re able to push with it afterwards, it’s huge. Whenever they would mess up, we had to capitalize on it. And whenever we could, we had to push. Defensively, we did really well tonight.”
Lexi Hartsock led the Indians with 25 digs, while Morrisette tallied 13 digs.
Besides Beckner, Taylor Henry posted 17 kills and Kerri Jones provided 39 assists.
“We aren’t penetrating across the net,” Stallworth said. “If you don’t penetrate on a good hitter, you’re not going to stop the ball. Plus, you’re not taking away enough of the court. Until we learn how to block that kind of hitter, we will continue to struggle with that team.”
Science Hill certainly had its share of moments, winning 11 more total points than the Lady Indians. Morgan Malone matched Jones with 39 assists, while Lyon led the Lady ’Toppers with 13 kills.
Big Eight Conference Player of the Year Renzey Rice had 11 kills and five digs, while LaKeisha Gregory ended with nine kills and five digs. Showing further balance, Caprisha Webster had eight kills and five digs, while Anjali Reddy totaled three blocks, five kills and seven digs.
However, the Lady Indians were able to respond to Science Hill’s athleticism and strong front line when it mattered the most.
“I felt we had to start turning our wonderful defense into some offense,” Baker said. “At the end, we started getting more kills and producing. We played a little sloppy at first, setting a lot, tipping a lot, but there at the end we started swinging and that was what we were looking for.”
Sullivan South 3, Sullivan Central 0
The Lady Rebels easily controlled the day’s opening match against the Lady Cougars (20-12).
Rylee Milhorn led the way with 16 kills and 12 digs as South won 25-11, 25-11 and 25-19. Hannah Johnson had 27 assists and Hannah Grese served six aces.
Ashley Reynolds and Haley DeVault each led Central with five kills. Anabel Bouton ended with four kills and Kylie Morelock had 21 assists and Rachel Harr came up with nine digs.
“It certainly was not what we wanted,” Central head coach Tracy Graybeal said. “South is a great team, but we were not aggressive as a whole. Our passing was so sporadic it was hard to run a middle. Tonight, our mental toughness wasn’t what it needed to be.”