Hiland Volleyball

Warriors and Lady Hawks go 5 again as Buckeye Trail ends Hiland’s fantastic year

Olivia Gingerich

Based on previous history, pretty much everyone in the gymnasium at Newcomerstown High School knew eventually the Hiland Lady Hawks and Buckeye Trail Warriors were going to a game five in their East District Div. III semifinal contest on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

The two teams had battled twice earlier this season, and both games had gone to five games, the two teams splitting their regular-season slate.

As if the volleyball gods didn’t want to disappoint, sure enough, when the air had cleared after four games, each team had been victorious twice, setting the stage for a grand finale that would determine who would advance to play powerful Tusky Valley in the district finals.

The Warriors flexed their muscles and delivered their best game of the night in the finale, delivering a 16-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-8 win, ending Hiland’s fantastic season at 20-4.

Hiland came out hot in game one and delivered on a number of big hits to put the game away with relative ease.

“I was disappointed with our effort right off the bat,” Warriors head coach Jeff Beros said. “We knew it was going to be a battle, so it was only fitting it went to game five here.”

In games two and three, the tables were turned, and while neither team played exceptionally well in a sloppy second game, the Warriors did enough to earn a 25-22 win. Hiland held a 10-7 advantage but then gave up 10 straight points during a span that saw them give away points at an alarming clip. Trailing 17-10, the Lady Hawks fought back with Madison Yoder and Nikki Keim getting kills in a run that saw Hiland close to within 17-15. The two teams battled back and forth with Madisynn Bryk and Mya Blochlinger recording kills before Bryk’s service ace made it 23-23. However, another poor play and a kill by Samantha Canner ended Hiland’s hopes.

Game three saw Hiland continue to struggle. It will be a game that will haunt the Lady Hawks as much, if not more, than game five. Buckeye Trail mauled the Lady Hawks out of the gate as again Hiland became its own worst enemy with poor serve-receives that kept the offense completely out of whack.

Having fallen behind 19-10, Hiland got the serve back and started to claw away at the Buckeye Trail lead. Olivia Gingerich served up an ace, and after the Warriors scored, Kim Miller recorded a kill to make it 20-13. After Alli McVicker rolled a ball along the net that eventually fell across on Hiland’s side, the Lady Hawks trailed 23-15.

Hiland scored three straight, one of them a kill by Yoder, and after losing a point, Hiland scored three more, led by a pair of mashes from Blochlinger.

Now trailing 24-22, Hiland was suddenly back in it. That ended quickly when Canner’s kill gave Buckeye Trail the win.

Hiland had played an ugly game two and three, and despite it all, had lost by only three points in each.

“We absolutely gave away games two and three,” coach Bryk said. “A lot of factors went into our play there, and it wasn’t pretty. They are a very good team, and you can’t play like we did and get away with it. We played well in game one and thought we had a good lead, and then we just fell apart.”

With the season in doubt, trailing two games to one, Hiland battled back. Two kills apiece from Bryk and Blochlinger and another from Yoder lifted Hiland to a 17-11 lead in game four. Buckeye Trail crept to within 17-14, but the big three of Bryk, Yoder and Blochlinger all recorded kills to forge a big lead, and Keim’s kill stopped a mini-rally for the Warriors to help secure the win and force a fifth game.

The two teams traded punches with Keim and Bryk getting big kills and Miller scoring after a sensational battle that seemed to go on forever. When Elizabeth Keim nailed a kill, the two teams were locked up at six.

Buckeye Trail scored twice before Bryk’s kill made it 8-7. That was when Warriors’ coach Beros rolled the dice, and it came up seven, time and again. Beros decided to allow Canner to serve, something she rarely did all season.

“She never serves,” Beros said. “We have the libero serve for her. But we had to do what we had to do, and we let Sam serve. I told her she had 900 square feet to serve into, just pick one and get it over the net.”

Canner started drilling serves, and Hiland failed to handle the bullets well. Jenni Carmichael smashed a winner to make it 12-7, and Canner delivered a serve to the back line that could have gone either way and was called in.

“I felt like I had a lot of mistakes tonight, so it was nice to finally get it together in game five and play,” Canner said. “We knew this was going to be a battle. But we knew with this being coach’s last year, we needed to win to keep going for him and for our six seniors too.”

Now trailing 13-7, coach Bryk called a time-out. As Canner hammered a serve, the official blew the whistle and called the Lady Hawks for a line-up infraction, much to the dismay of Bryk.

“We had been lining up that way the entire night,” Bryk said as her pleas fell on deaf ears. “But in game five, they hit the ball, and we didn’t. We didn’t have an offense. We were out of system and made some uncharacteristic mistakes tonight.”

At 14-7 Hiland breathed one last breath into its season on a Blochlinger kill, but a crushing blow by Carmichael sent the Warriors away the victor.

“It was a battle,” Beros said. “Both teams had moments of lapses. It is a shame someone had to lose this game because it was a hard-fought game. But we held it together a little longer in that fifth set, and that allowed us to get into the flow a bit. And they made some mistakes they didn’t make in that fourth set.”

“With that rally scoring, that game got away from us in a hurry,” coach Bryk said.

Coach Bryk said the Lady Hawks had an unbelievable season. Over the past two years they have put the Hiland program back on the map and have been a powerful force that has been to districts twice in a row. They won the Inter-Valley Conference South, something a Hiland team hasn’t done since 2005.

All of that did little to diminish the anguish the team felt following the loss.

“I’d like to say I’m satisfied, but I’m not,” coach Bryk said. “This one hurts. These girls are hurting, but they are ready to come back and do it again. They are extremely disappointed.”

The game marked the final one for seniors Katelyn Hershberger and Arryn Schlabach. Coach Bryk said they both brought plenty to the table for this year’s team.

“They play big defensive and serving roles for us, and their leadership will be missed,” Bryk said of her seniors. “Kate brings such intensity and fire to the game when she is in. She really played a tremendous game tonight and has been playing great defense all tournament.”

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