Hiland Volleyball

Lady Hawks take down scrappy Colts to advance in districts

Lady Hawks fend off Colts to advance

Hiland wanted a challenge in preparing for big things in the Div. III volleyball tournament. It got one from Meadowbrook. The scrappy Colts put forth a great effort, but the Lady Hawks were able to eventually pull out a 25-20, 25-19, 21-25, 25-16 victory at Hiland High School on Saturday, Oct. 21.

“They are really a scrappy team, and we knew this was going to be a difficult challenge,” Hiland coach Adri Bryk said.

With all of the higher seeds staying out of the top bracket where state powerhouse Tusky Valley resides, it made Hiland’s trek through the lower bracket a true challenge, which is how the number-two-seed Lady Hawks drew the district’s number-four seed in the second round.

“Our girls are of the mind-set that every single game from this one on out is going to be a battle, and we have faced a lot of that throughout the year,” Bryk said.

Game one was a nip-and-tuck affair that saw both teams teeter-totter with the lead. Meadowbrook led 7-4, but Hiland then reeled off six straight points and eventually held a 13-10 lead. The Colts rallied to tie it at 16, but Madisynn Bryk and Madison Yoder each got a kill to move Hiland back in front. Meadowbrook tied it again at 20-20, but after Hiland got the serve back, Kim Miller served a number of darts and led Hiland to a 25-20 win.

A couple of big kills from Mya Blochlinger paved the way for a 6-3 lead for Hiland in game two before Miller really started to spread it around for the Lady Hawks. The sophomore setter found Sydney Yoder, Olivia Gingerich and Nikki Keim twice, and Hiland held a commanding 18-7 lead. However, Meadowbrook showed some guts and drew to within 19-13. The Colts got to within 20-16 before Miller went twice to Blochlinger for kills and then found Bryk and Yoder for winners for a 25-17 win.

Meadowbrook’s comeback seemed to spur it, and the Colts went to work in game three, turning an 8-4 deficit into a 15-13 lead, paced by hitters Emily Echols and Javen Valentine.

“They switched things up and started to effectively short-serve us, and we didn’t react to it very well,” coach Bryk said. “That was eye-opening for me, and it is something we will incorporate in practice.”

Yoder’s kill got the Lady Hawks back to within one as they tried to close out the Colts, but Clara Slabaugh made an unbelievable hustle play to keep a ball alive and get the Colts a point. That sent them soaring to a 20-14 lead, and Echols ended the third game with a kill, giving Meadowbrook a 25-21 win and more importantly, momentum.

Hiland then tried to establish its dominance again, and in game four Miller went right to Blochlinger early for two big kills. The Colts rallied quickly and scored five points around a third Blochlinger kill.

Then senior Arryn Schlabach took over the service line and went to work. This wasn’t the first time this season Schlabach started dealing big time to produce a long run, and this one was huge. By the time Schlabach stopped serving, Hiland held a commanding 13-5 edge, the senior having served nine straight points, a run that included three aces and a pair of kills from Miller.

“I really focused serving to the back-right corner,” Schalabch said. “We work a lot on spot serving every day at practice. It’s a big part of what wee do.”

As for the mind-set of the Lady Hawks, Schlabach said they entered game four with one thought in mind.

“There wasn’t going to be a game five,” Schlabach said with a laugh.

Meadowbrook kept fighting, and kills from Echols and Lila Dyer got the Colts as close as 17-10. However, Hiland was not going to be denied, and Blochlinger sandwiched a pair of kills around a Yoder ace for a 21-10 edge. Blochlinger later nailed another kill, and after the Colts got a couple of big plays from Avery Poland and a block apiece from Miranda Marsenik and Valentine, Miller finished off the clinching 25-16 win with a pair of kills.

Blochlinger’s dominance late was as key to the victory as was Schlabach’s serving prowess. She said she was just doing her thing, thanks to her teammates and Miller’s ability to put the ball where she can handle it.

“My team is a really big part of how I get my kills, and I love the support we have for each other,” Blochlinger said. “Getting our passes up to where they need to be is a really big part of our success. We knew they would be tough, and we were very well prepared for this game. We know there won’t be any easy games from here out.”

Hiland improved to 21-3 on the season, and the victory pushed them into a return date with a Buckeye Trail team they have seen twice in the Inter-Valley Conference regular season this year. In both of those games, Hiland escaped with five-game wins, so they know that their next step will be a rugged one.

“We just need to continue to play our game,“ Bryk said. “We had a lot of kids contributing tonight, and that is the only way we are going to go anywhere. It takes all of us, and that was what we got tonight.”

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