Karen Kase | The Gazette
BARBERTON — The Highland volleyball team got the result it wanted Wednesday night, but it wasn’t always pretty.
The third-seeded Hornets defeated Cuyahoga Falls 25-22, 25-20, 24-26, 25-22 to advance to the Barberton Division I District semifinals, where they will square off against second-seeded Medina next week.
Over the course of the first two games, the Hornets (16-7) seemed to be just a few points away from advancing, but a combination of unforced errors helped keep Cuyahoga Falls in it. The Black Tigers never went away and put up a terrific fight to steal the third game before Highland bounced back to keep its season alive.
“Mentally, we weren’t sharp,” Hornets coach Jeff McDivitt said. “We need to work on mental focus and being consistently ready. You have to be able to do it sometimes for five games or 3 hours. Tonight, I didn’t see mental sharpness except here or there. Hopefully it was just some first-match jitters. We’ve got to play better.”
Both squads felt those early tournament jitters, but stayed within several points of each other nearly all night. An exception came in Game 2, when Highland led by seven on multiple occasions.
Cuyahoga Falls stuck to its game plan of limiting Hornets middle hitter Mallory Adams (team-high 7 kills), but Highland closed when needed.
“We have to play almost perfect to be able to beat taller, bigger, more athletic teams,” Cuyahoga Falls coach Josh Stewart said. “I thought we played very well and carried out our game plan like we wanted to, which was keep the ball away from No. 12 (Adams) and double- or triple-block her whenever we could. We just made a few too many errors, serving errors and bad passes.”
Highland’s Angel Redman recorded an ace to close out the opening game, while Game 2 was won on a nicely tipped ball by Adams. Game 3 was a back-and-forth affair before the Tigers took control.
Game 4 also was tight to the end. Adams tallied a block/kill to make it 21-18, then combined to make a big play at the net with Marlee Profitt. Zoe Nehrer, who played well all night for the Black Tigers, recorded three points at the end, but Madison Shearer posted a kill and McDivitt called a timeout to set up the final sequence. Game 4 finished with an Adams block and a Redman kill.
For the Hornets, Redman (16 digs, 6 kills, 2 aces) stepped up and seniors Morgan Kasolunes (4½ blocks), Paige Tanzer (22 digs, 2 aces) and Tori Maglione (2 aces) refused to let their careers end.
Maglione was an influence all night, according to McDivitt.
“Tori is sometimes overlooked because of Mallory up front, but she is so steady in what she sees and how she reacts,” he said. “It’s a steady confidence with her, being a senior, and that’s what you want to have out on the floor. She takes pride in what she does. She is more of a dynamic blocker for us, and I love that about her. I thought she played well.”
Contact Karen Kase at firstname.lastname@example.org.