Science Hill volleyball coach Louise Stallworth knew her team was blessed with athleticism this season. On Tuesday night, it showed it has plenty of fight as well.
Down 2-1 to Dobyns-Bennett, the Lady ’Toppers roared back to take a 3-2 victory over the Lady Indians inside the new Science Hill Gymnasium.
Science Hill improved to 7-3 in the Big Seven Conference and 22-10 overall with the victory, while the Lady Indians fell to 7-2, 22-7.
“I’m really proud of one thing — they didn’t quit, ever,” Stallworth said. “I preach to the girls when the game gets tight, somebody gets tense and I don’t want it to be us. I want our girls to play to win and not worry about making a mistake. I want them to play aggressively as they can, and they did that tonight. That’s why they won.”
After Dobyns-Bennett reeled off seven straight points in a 25-15 first set, Science Hill gutted out a 25-23 decision to even the match.
D-B took the lead with a 25-20 third set before the Lady ’Toppers went on the offensive with a 24-20 fourth set and a 15-12 deciding set.
Middle hitter LaKeisha Gregory took over with three kills and two blocks in the deciding set. She posted overall numbers of 14 kills, five blocks, 17 digs and two aces.
While the offensive numbers stood out, Gregory said the match was won by an improved Science Hill defense.
“Our defense was great tonight because we knew the last time we played them our defense wasn’t very good,” Gregory said. “It was a big game for our seniors because it’s the last time they’re going to play D-B here. We knew we had to play as hard as we could to get the win.”
She wasn’t alone in her efforts as Caprisha Webster came through with 17 kills, 18 digs and four aces. Gabby Lyon and Allie Foster also added to a formidable Science Hill front line. Lyon had five kills, five blocks and two assists, while Foster added five kills.
In addition, Karah McKaig ended with 12 digs and 36 assists, while Emma Martindale and Olivia Page reached double digits with 16 and 14 digs, respectively.
Their efforts, along with Mallory Murray serving at 100 percent with three aces, helped Science Hill keep Dobyns-Bennett on its heels over the final two sets.
“We have a really strong defensive line and all season long I’ve preached turning our defense into an offensive mindset,” Lady Indians coach Wendy Baker said. “I told them to play offense, offense, offense, but I felt like they kept us on defense the entire night. You can’t play defense the entire night against a team and expect to win.”
Still, the talented bunch from Kingsport came close. They were led by junior Taylor Henry, who often tipped the ball over the outstretched arms of Science Hill’s front to register 15 kills.
Whitney Starnes took a more overpowering approach with 12 kills, while Makenzee Frohlich added 11 kills.
Kerri Jones had 38 assists and 16 digs, as Lexi Hartsock put up the big defensive numbers with 26 digs.
The match served notice of how far the Lady ‘Toppers have come over the past couple of months. Stallworth added that anytime Science Hill can beat Dobyns-Bennett, it’s big for the program.
“When I took this job the first time, one of the first things the principal at that time said, ‘To keep your job, you’ve got to beat D-B,’” Stallworth said. “Of course, he was kind of kidding me, but it’s a big thing for Science Hill. We have to beat D-B and we know that.”