The Lady Hilltoppers hosted the Dayton Bulldogs in an early Saturday morning matchup. The Bulldogs entered the match suffering a tight two set loss to the Cranford Cougars and the Hilltoppers had dropped a 2-0 decision to the Falcons of Mount Saint Mary’s. Both squads were looking to get back to the winning side of the ledger as they tuned up for their individual State Sectional run.
In today’s match, the Hilltoppers were going to be without the services of the Vivian Roberts as the junior was taking care of the student part of student-athlete as she prepares to enter the college selection and application process soon. But this match also marked the return of sophomore Hannah Barlow in her first full match since early September due to an elbow injury. On paper, the matchup seemed to be a close one and it proved to be so, with an entertaining 3 set affair the result at SHS’s main gym.
Set one was clearly an adjustment period for Summit as the familiarity of a Roberts was clearly missed and the nerves and excitement of a Barlow in the line-up clearly impacted the rotations. Summit started off slow on receive as the Bulldogs notched 2 aces early and saw the Top suffer through a hitting, ball handling and serving error to open with a 5-1 deficit. Things seemed to settle down a bit as Dayton was also called for a BHE to snap their service run which led to a Aya Laws line drive serve to zone 5 the led to a Bulldog error and Eva Oberhuber, a key to today’s plan, smoked a cross court attack to zone 2 to get SHS to within 1 at 5-4. However, the good feelings were short lived as the early unforced errors again raised their ugly heads as the Bulldogs went on a 6-0 run (block error SHS, BHE SHS, 2 aces, 2 kills) that only ended because of a Dayton service error. Summit returned the favor and the Orange and Blue got on another 2-0 run (Summit hitting error and free ball error) as the scoreboard flipped to 14-5 Dayton before an Alison Wauters kill stopped the run. Unfortunately, another SHS service error stymied any possibility of a Summit run and another attack error by the Top had the Bulldogs up 16-6. But then the Captain, Rebekah Thompson, stepped up to serve after a Zoe Zacharias tip broke the Dayton serve and the Libero ripped 2 consecutive aces to get the Top within shouting distance at 16-9. The attack errors continued and SHS found itself down by 8 again at 19-11 despite a Hope Basaman kill. But 2 more errors by the Summit crew had Dayton on the verge of the set victory at 21-11 and the Maroon and Black could not do much to stop Dayton as the teams traded points as the score-line read 23-13. Oberhuber then drove a kill to zone 1, Zacharias dropped an ace and a Bulldog hitting error seemed to lift the Hilltopper spirits despite the 23-16 deficit. The set ended on a Bulldog kill and ace but the team felt like it had figured out a rhythm late in set one that was going to work.
The following set started well enough with Basaman hitting for an ace and Barlow a kill to open up 2-0. Dayton responded with a 3-0 run but the Top saw Barlow nail another attack which led to a 4-2 run that saw Oberhuber crush 3 balls and the SHS squad had taken the lead 6-5. A 5-0 run by Dayton fueled by a few Summit errors had the Bulldogs up 10-6 and it started to feel eerily like the first set yet again. But this time, it was a service error by the Dayton Varsity that sparked a 5-0 run in which SHS got key, tough serves by Thompson again that forced the Bulldogs into hitting errors and highlighted by a Cece Webb kill that saw the score-line flip to 11-10 Summit before a Top error ended the run. Dayton scratched for a mini run of 2 points that put the Bulldogs up 13-11 but a Basaman kill ended the mini-run and Barlow and Basaman notched one kill apiece to flip the score yet again to the Summit side at 14-13. Both squads traded points over the next two rotations as nothing much changed with the score 16-15. Dayton yet again was able to take an opportunity presented by the Top of a service error and turn it into a 3-1 run that had the Bulldogs up 21-17 as Coach Martins was forced to call a TO. Off the time-out, SHS went to Barlow and the sophomore did not disappoint with a kill to zone 5. Barlow notched an ace off her jump serve and the Maroon and Black were only down 21-19. A service break occurred but the Summit offense responded with a perfect pass by Thompson which Webb put into play. The Bulldogs could not do much with it and Thompson passed up another perfect ball off a free ball opportunity and this time Oberhuber had her shot but the Bulldogs yet again stymied the Top. However, Dayton’s first opportunity to attack in this rally went right at Webb’s hands and the block had SHS down only 22-20. Another long rally ensued after another Zacharias serve and the resulting point went to the Hilltoppers after an Oberhuber dump kill which in turn led to a Zacharias ace forcing the Dayton Coach to call a time-out with his squad tied 22-22. Off the time-out, SHS got a great dig from Thompson and Oberhuber got set up for the kill to get Summit the lead at 23-22. A Hilltopper hitting error had the score knotted up but Thompson again passed up a perfect ball that was attacked by Zacharias but the Bulldogs dug it but could not find the court on the Maroon and Black’s side as Thompson and Webb tallied 2 digs that led to a Dayton hitting error and put the Hilltoppers on the verge of a set 2 win. Thompson again found herself on the service line and she delivered an ace to knot up the set score at 1 and finish the comeback 25-23.
The deciding set did not start with Summit carrying the momentum of set 2. On the contrary, it had an eery feel of set 1 as the Bulldogs jumped all over the Top for a 5-1 lead that had Coach Martins calling a time-out to calm and refocus the troops. Sarah Noa then passed up a perfect ball off the TO that Zacharias dumped off a block for a kill and the Top was on the plus side of the ledger at 2-5. That kill brought Torie MacArthur up to serve and the senior DS ripped a ball to zone 5 that saw the Dayton offense have a little trouble with and led to an out of system swing that the senior DS dug up and Wauters , back into action in the 3rd set, put down for a kill. This was the beginning of a 5-0 Summit run fueled by MacArthur’s serving that saw Wauters hit for 2 more kills and Thea Rind squeeze one through for a back row kill by the DS to flip the score in Summit’s favor at 7-5. A Dayton service break was not enough to derail the Hilltoppers and Thompson got a back row kill and Barlow nailed another shot from the outside in the midst of a lot of switches of serves to give the Top an 11-10 lead.
Dayton took the lead over after a service error and a BHE call against the Summit crew but Barlow and Oberhuber ripped kills to reestablish the SHS lead at 13-12. Despite a service error giving the Bulldogs a 13-13 tie, Dayton failed to serve the next ball in and SHS punished them for it with a block by Oberhuber and an ace by Barlow which forced a Bulldog TO with the team up 16-13 in the late stages of the match. The Bulldogs did manage to get the ball back off the time-out but Zacharias once again looked to Wauters who delivered with a kill 4 feet back of the 10 ft line to keep the lead at 17-14. A Blue and Orange kill gave hope to the Bulldogs but a service error deflated that hope as Thompson yet again went up and delivered a tough serve that kept the Bulldogs out of system enough to not run their best play-set. The resulting attack was dug up by the Captain and Zacharias went to the hot hand in Wauters who delivered another kill and extended the lead to 19-15. With the lead at 20-16 it seemed a matter of time before the comeback was complete but that was not to be as the Bulldogs had one last run in them and forced the Hilltoppers to close them out under pressure.
It started with 2 attack errors off good passes and a free ball return error in a scramble situation. Just like that, in the span of 3 minutes, 20-19 SHS, Summit TO. Another scramble play off the time-out led to yet another SHS hitting error and the Bulldogs had tied it at 20. But Dayton had a costly serving error and Basaman made Dayton pay with a blistering ace to zone 5-6 seam for the 22-20 lead. Another tough serve by the senior OPP led to a scramble on the Dayton side which led to a very important rally at this point in the match. Barlow was unable to put the ball down but Noa came up big defensively with back-to-back digs that led to another Barlow attack and then a Nardino attack to no avail. Basaman played D and dug up a middle attack by the Bulldogs and Noa notched another dig right after which gave Barlow another shot but the Dayton Libero thwarted her efforts yet again. But the subsequent pass went astray and the Bulldogs were unable to get it over and the Hilltoppers earned an important point to see the lead at 23-20. Basaman smoked the next serve to zone 6 causing all kinds of problems and a free ball return gave Zacharias the opportunity to set Barlow again and this time there was no stopping the attempt and the Hilltoppers had 4 match points. A service break by Dayton just postponed the inevitable as Thompson handled the Bulldog serve with ease and Barlow delivered the final point in a poetic finish to her return to action in a 2-1 come from behind victory for Summit as the team improves to 13W-6, the 4th most amount of wins in program history and the 3rd best winning % in program history with a few games to go!!!