As the Varsity squad continues its preparation for the Sectional State run, the Hilltoppers are taking on teams that are not on their usual schedule. On Thursday, said opponent was the Falcons of Mount Saint Mary’s, a team that features a D1 Princeton bound OH and who had just finished a very competitive Prep Championship Final versus Kent Place, the #7 team in NJ, who they took to 3 sets. The task was a difficult one and early on, it seemed to be too much for the Lady Hilltoppers.
Summit found itself tied 2-2 after 2 Vivian Roberts kills off a dig and a perfect serve reception by Sarah Noa but it could not keep that level of performance up as the Falcons ran off the next 6 points to take a commanding 8-2 lead forcing a SHS time-out. Summit had trouble handling the serve off the TO but the Princeton bound Hyliard of MSM tallied a tip error and the Hilltoppers had the ball back at 3-8. Torie MacArthur put a tough serve to the Falcon side and Alison Wauters dug a ball up and despite not getting a kill, the Summit D managed to force an attack error to close the gap to 8-4. The good feelings were short-lived however as the squad suffered through a 5-0 run which was broken by a Wauters kill just to have another 3-0 run follow for a 16-5 score-line. The Top managed not much else other than a Hope Basaman kill in a 9-3 run to close out set 1 for the Falcons, 25-8.
Summit had to serve tougher and be more productive offensively to keep pace with the MSM offense but could the team do it. Basaman seemed to believe so as she started set 2 from the service line. The Sr. OPP stepped up to the line after Roberts had tallied a kill to break a 2-0 start by the Falcons. Basaman ran off 6 consecutive service points (5 aces) forcing a MSM time-out. Coming off the TO, the Senior fired another bullet serve which had the Falcons out of system and drew another hitting error. Three more service points later (2 more aces) and the Summit had the Falcons on the ropes up 12-2 before a kill ended the Basaman run. Unfortunately, the Top could not score enough past this point and could not serve tough enough to close out this talented team.
The Mount earned a kill and an ace to get the score to 12-4. A Roberts kill ended the service, 13-4 SHS. A serving error and a BHE later by the Hilltoppers, 13-6. A tip error by the MSM offense could not be taken advantage of as Summit committed another service error, 14-7 SHS. Thea Rind passed up a perfect pass on receive that Oberhuber crushed on a slide and the bench exploded with the score 15-7. But MSM responded with a kill to mute the enthusiasm just to see Summit rejoice again with an Oberhuber kill and a Hannah Barlow block that had the Maroon and Black up 17-9. A kill by the Falcons and a hitting error by the Top saw the lead whittled down to 6 at 17-11 but a Zoe Zacharias tip had the Falcons all out of sorts and led to a 2nd ball return error and the Hilltoppers had to have felt that they could beat this team with the lead 18-11.
But then the wheels started to fall off as the reality and expectation of the set win started to set in. A free ball return error, a hitting error and a kill by the Falcons quickly turned up the heat as SHS felt like they were just holding on at 18-14. Noa passed up a perfect ball off a tough Mount serve and Roberts swung around a block. The ball did not go down but an overpass ensued and Julia Nardino tried to tip it down to no avail but the Falcon MB drove the ball out of bounds and the Top got back to a 19-14 lead. Aya Laws continued her tough serving late in the season and hit a line drive to zone 5 that was handled by the Falcons and led to an attack from their OH but Roberts dug it up beautifully but the Hilltoppers could only produce a free-ball. The subsequent attack was also dug up by Summit, this time by Noa, but yet again, no Hilltopper attack was possible and for the Falcons, third time was the charm, 19-15 SHS. A blocking error and a spike error later had Mount St. Mary’s knocking at the door with the Hilltoppers hanging on to a 19-17 lead and despite a TO by Coach Martins, the team could not find a kill off serve receive and 2 aces and kill later, the Mount had overtaken the Hilltoppers, 21-19. The Summit ladies did not fold and Zacharias put a perfect set in Roberts’ wheelhouse after Rind had put up another perfect pass and the Jr. OH did not miss with a screamer to zone 1-6 seam to get the Hilltoppers to 20-21. Unfortunately, the SHS crew could not generate more and the Mount finished the set and match on a 4-0 run that sealed the affair at 25-20.
Despite the loss, SHS proved in set 2 that it could be dangerous to a top team and, without some unforced errors, could upset some team down the line, just not on this day, not on the Falcons home court.
The JV Squad used their service attack in set 1 to pull away late in the set and earn a 25-16 win. The turning point in an otherwise even affair began off the service attack of junior Naya Kim who ripped 2 consecutive aces to open a 4 point lead that the Top would not yield. Late in set 2 it was clear the Mount was not going to allow any consistent attacks to go down nor any aces to get scored so the Hilltoppers had to muster offense and put the MSM team on the defensive. Down late 21-20, the Top did just that, swing effective attacks and forcing free ball returns or out of system attacks which were leading to Falcon errors. Down 22-24 however, Elizabeth Walsh stepped up to the service line and proceeded to serve 4/4 high pressure balls that led to a Hilltopper kill, an ace and 2 Falcon errors to finish the come from behind 26-24 set 2 and match victory to get the JV to a 15W-2L record!!!