Yes, the Hiland Lady Hawks lost their district final volleyball game to second-seed Fort Frye Wednesday, Oct. 26 at Meadowbrook High School. However, the 11th-seeded Lady Hawks let it be known that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the season ending 16-25, 25-14, 26-24, 23-25, 15-5 loss to the Cadets.
Coming off a 2-20 campaign last year, and following a 1-6 start this year, this team turned things around and made the most of their opportunity to put the program back on track.
Hiland jumped out to an early lead in game one on the strength of Madison Yoder’s serving prowess. A 5-0 lead catapulted the Lady Hawks to a 25-16 win.
“We kind of shocked them by coming out so strong early,” Hiland coach Adri Bryk said. “I don’t think they were ready for that.”
But as well as the Lady Hawks played in game one, the wheels came off in game tow and the Cadets played great to even the score with a 25-14 win.
Two blow-outs were followed but two excruciatingly tight games. Hiland pushed ahead 10-4 in game one behind the stellar play of setter Kim Miller, a big kill by Nikki Overholt and a pair of nice blocks from the appropriately named Mya Blochlinger. But by the time the scoreboard read 12 for the Lady Hawks, it read the same for the Cadets. Hiland then reeled off four straight points to forge a 16-12 lead, but Fort Frye then went nuts, taking a 19-17 lead. But Madisynn Bryk and Brooke Stutzman kills tied the score at 20. A Cadets point was followed by a crucial carry call, and an ace from Sarah Wagner and Fort Frye was looking to put the district title to bed.
It wouldn’t be that easy.
Hiland ripped off four straight points, the final three being a Katelyn Hershberger ace, an Amanda Yoder hammer and a kill from Madison Yoder. Now it was Hiland’s chance to turn the match to a fifth game. After the Cadets scored to make it 24-23, Bryk hit a kill shot that was blocked right back at her. She banged the ball up to Miller, who back-set a perfect pass to Amanda Yoder, who drove it home for the game-winner.
“That felt amazing,” Yoder said of her game-winner. “I was pumped after that.”
That set the stage for what everyone figured would be a spine-tingling game five race to 15, winner-take-all.
Instead, Fort Frye took a 3-3 game, scored six straight points and never looked back. The Cadets had saved their best effort for the end game, and Hiland tightened up a bit, and produced too many free balls, of which Fort Frye took full advantage. The final score of 15-4 was not exactly justice for a game that was so close.
“That was tremendous for us to turn things around like that after losing such a close game four,” Kasey Buchanan said of the Cadets. “We came together and played as a team.”
“We had too many free balls, and I thought our inexperience may have shown a little bit in the end,” head coach Adri Bryk said.
For Hiland, which ends the season as a .500 team, it had played the entire tournament run as though it was anything but an 11th seed. While the record may have read .500, the Lady Hawks were a completely different team than the one that started the season 1-6. The second half surge, which included the improved play, the rising confidence, a new sense of success and a load of youthful talent looks like it might mark the beginning of a new era of Hiland volleyball.
As for the outgoing seniors, they got to enjoy an exciting finish to their careers, and it was a special moment going from a 2-20 team a year prior to a district runner-up.
“I think one thing I’ll remember about this year is that everyone wanted this so badly,” senior Amanda Yoder said. “I am proud of us for making it as afar as we did. Everyone was all-in and we had a lot of girls step up and show what we could do. The team chemistry was great.”
Senior libero Brittany Wengerd has been a part of some lean years, having stepped in as a freshman, and to be a part of the team that helps turn the corner for the Hiland program made all of the struggles worth it.
“I’m sad we couldn’t make it to regionals, but I am proud that we went from a 2-20 record last year to an even record this year and getting all the way to the district finals,”
Wengerd said. “This team is going to be very good next year. I don’t know what happened at the beginning of the year. We just took some time to click. It looked like it was back to more losing volleyball, but then it all came together, and we picked it up when it really mattered the most. I am excited to see where this program goes in the next few years.”
Overholt recorded nine kills to pace Hiland in the final game of her illustrious career, while Miller was stupendous overall, recording eight kills, nine service points, 28 assists and 17 digs. Madison Yoder added eight service points, including three aces, adding seven kills and 10 digs. Madi Bryk totaled 11 service points and five kills, while Wengerd chalked up 18 digs.
For the Lady Hawks, the tears ending a tournament run that saw them playing at their best will do little do deter what they accomplished and where they are going in the future.
“We’ve come a long way, and we are super-proud of these girls for what they accomplished,” Adri Bryk said. “We have big expectations for next year already. Our goal is to become a winning program, and we want to see these girls go far.”
If year one under Bryk is any indication, going far is right around the corner.