Hiland Volleyball

‘What might have been’ will haunt Lady Hawks after falling to Panthers in regional thriller

Lady Hawks bow after reaching regionals for the first time in more than a decade

Hiland volleyball head coach Adri Bryk is a self-described analyzer who will go over film tirelessly to comb through every single aspect of a match. Whether she wants to or not, the Lady Hawks’ Nov. 1 loss to Chillicothe Southeastern will be more like horror film than an uplifting feel-good movie of the year.

That is because at just about every turn during viewing the game, she will be able to find a play here or a moment there that would have swung the 26-24, 25-18, 23-25, 26-24 loss in her team’s favor.

“This one is going to hurt for awhile,” coach Bryk said. “I analyze everything, and you have every option available, but it doesn’t always go the way you want it to.”

Facing a strong Panthers team that has been at the regional level for the past three years, the Lady Hawks knew it was going to be a battle.

However, the early returns for Hiland were good as Madisynn Bryk and Mya Blochlinger hammered away up front, battling a host of heavy hitters including senior captain Jessica Bolte, Hannah Lougheed, lengthy Lyndsey Skeens and Skylar Hice.

A big kill by Madisynn Bryk would spot the Lady Hawks to a 16-12 lead in game one, but the Panthers came back on three straight points. Hiland then sandwiched kills from Blochlinger and Madison Yoder around a Skeens block and at 23-18 seemed to have game one in hand.

Even Southeastern head coach Jimmy Hutton thought so.

“I was sitting on the bench beside Jess [Bolte] when it was 23-18, and I said, ‘This one’s over. Let’s go ahead and give this one away, and we will get the next set,’” Hutton said. “She got mad at me, and when you get Jess mad, she starts hitting the ball. She’s a senior and one of our captains, and she went out and told the girls what I said and they decided they weren’t letting the ball hit the floor.”

It became a monumental turning point in the game. Southeastern began turning up the heat, and the Lady Hawks made some unforced errors that got the game to within 23-22. Madisynn Bryk then got a big kill to make it 24-22, and after Lougheed nailed a kill to make it 24-23, Yoder placed a dink around a double-block. The ball sailed toward the sideline and a potential game-winner landed a mere 2 inches out of bounds, tying the game at 24. Bolte hammered a kill, and Hiland’s miscue ended game one in favor of the Panthers.

“We should have had that game, and I will look back at that game for awhile,” coach Bryk said.

Seizing momentum, Southeastern built a commanding 10-2 lead in game two as Lougheed began striking. However, this veteran Hiland team understands the game, and led by senior All-Ohioan Kim Miller, they began creeping back into it, trailing 11-5 and 12-6. Then the Lady Hawks went on a four-point run with Amanda Troyer at the service line. Nikki Keim’s kill drew Hiland back to within 12-10, and it was again game-on.

Skeens and Sierra DeLong provided big hits that pushed the lead back to five at 15-10, but again Hiland didn’t quit. Olivia Gingerich’s kill and a Miller block left Hiland trailing 19-15. Madisynn Bryk recorded a kill, and Yoder served up an ace. After Bolte knocked one down, Blochlinger smashed a winner, and suddenly the Panthers lead was 20-18.

But it seemed as though the Lady Hawks had exerted so much energy in getting back into that game that they simply ran out of juice, and the Panthers scored the game’s final five points, several of them on Hiland miscues, to win 25-18.

Now Hiland’s season was on the brink of ending, and things took a turn for the worst when Southeastern built an early 7-2 lead as Bolte began asserting herself.

Hiland again showed real guts and wasn’t about to go down without a fight. Madisynn Bryk and Gingerich recorded kills, and with Troyer on the service line, Hiland swiftly crushed its way to a 9-8 lead. Eventually a block and a kill from Skeens and several impressive digs by freshman Lexie Lockewood and a Hice hammer would give the lead back to Southeastern at 14-12.

Now with Gingerich on the service line, it was again a Lady Hawks uprising, and they took the lead back at 17-14 as Yoder and Blochlinger each nailed winners.

Eventually Hiland again found itself leading 23-18, and it appeared as though a bit of deja vu might end the year for Hiland as Southeastern came storming back. After Madisynn Bryk’s kill made it 24-19, Southeastern forced a Hiland time-out when it got to within one at 24-22, and another point made it a one-point game. However, Southeastern served it into the net, and Hiland was still alive with a 25-23 win.

With momentum it would be the Lady Hawks who growled out of the gate, taking a 9-3 lead as Sydney Mast served an ace, Madisynn Bryk nailed three kills and Miller scored off an ace and had her dig fall across the net into no-man’s land.

But led by Skeens, the Panthers came right back, drawing to within 10-8. That was when Yoder simply took over for Hiland, recording four kills to push the Lady Hawks’ lead to 15-10.

“She just absolutely stepped up big. That was as good as I have seen Madison play,” Bryk said of Yoder.

Once again, back came Southeastern, getting to within two at 17-15 on Hice’s kill. A Lougheed kill and a service ace from DeLong gave Southeastern its first lead of the game at 20-18, and once more Hiland needed to dig deep. It did as kills from Madisynn Bryk and Gingerich drew Hiland even at 20.

A Lockwood ace and a couple of Hiland errors put the Panthers ahead 23-20, but a double-block from Miller and Keim, another Yoder kill, and a pair of defensive gems from Jasmine Hershey set up two unforced Panthers’ errors, and Hiland was within a point of forcing game five, leading 24-23.

However, Hiland hit it wide, tying the game, and Skeens delivered a big kill before a disheartening carry call on Yoder ended the season for Hiland.

“Toward the second half of the match, we started playing with our heart, which is where it’s at for us,” coach Bryk said. “They gave it everything they had right up to the final point, which is all you can ask them to do. Things aren’t always going to go your way, and you have to make the best of it. We played with a lot of heart and desire.”

The senior group of Hershey, Elizabeth Keim, Hailey Miller, Gingerich, Sydney Yoder, Madisynn Bryk and Blochlinger was instrumental on putting the Hiland volleyball program back on the map, and their head coach appreciated their willingness to do whatever necessary to make that happen. Seeing them move on is going to be a difficult thing for the coaching staff.

“It’s a special group,” coach Bryk said. “Talent-wise, heart, dedication, that is what that senior class brought. They put the hours in when nobody cared.”

For Southeastern it marks a return to the regional final, where they lost to Tusky Valley last year. They lost to the Trojans the year prior in the regional semi-final, and they will get a chance to face TVHS again because the Trojans wasted previously undefeated Wheelersburg in three straight sets to reach the regional final.

“It’s always good to have,” Hutton said of that regional experience. “Our attitudes have changed, and we went on a downhill slide in the season, but when the tournament run came, I told the girls we have been here before. We have to pick it up. We have to start passing better and attacking the ball, and that is what happened.”

Coach Bryk said playing consistently in the regionals is a level that her program is now ready to find.

“For us it’s a big deal to be here,” coach Bryk said. “We know we could have taken it farther, and while it is tough for that senior group, we have a lot of young talent coming, and they will make their mark.”

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