The Summit Lady Hilltoppers hosted the Millburn Millers yesterday in a battle of evenly matched teams looking to move on to the semis of the state sectional tourney. Summit was a slight underdog in this match and had not beaten the Millburn squad since 2009 and the two schools last matched up in 2018, a 2-0 Millburn win.
Hope Basaman started the Top off well with a down ball kill that gave SHS its first point of the Quarter-Finals. Millburn quickly took the lead to 3-1 but a hitting error by the Millers, 4 aces by Hannah Barlow and a kill by Vivian Roberts had Summit in control at 7-3 and forced a Millburn TO. Coming off the time-out, SHS won the next 3 of 4 points thanks to an ace by Torie MacArthur and the Top stood tall with a 10-4 lead. The 6 point cushion remained until the later stages of the set when Roberts notched a tip kill and Barlow served up a bullet that led to a 3rd ball return error and the Hilltoppers found themselves up 18-10. Despite a break of serve, the Top found themselves up by 8 yet again as Roberts ripped an ace in her first service attempt (20-12). Millburn got as close as 21-15 but never really challenged as 2 aces by Rebekah Thompson set up a 4-0 run that sealed the set 25-15 for the Hilltoppers.
Summit outscored Millburn 12-8 in the set thanks to a 9-1 ace advantage.
Set 2 began similarly enough with the Millburn side taking an early 4-1 lead before Roberts put down a kill to stymie the run but the Millers got right back in control thanks to 3 consecutive SHS hitting errors. Alison Wauters got a crucial kill to break serve and get SHS within 4 at 7-3. This kill was the beginning of a 4-1 run that saw Barlow and Eva Oberhuber get kills and Thompson rip an ace that put the Maroon and Black within 2 at 6-8. The Millers responded with a kill to break the Top’s momentum but Hilltoppers were undeterred. Zoe Zacharias started it all with a dump kill and Julia Nardino let her presence be felt with a block which then set up a Barlow kill to knot up the set at 9. Millburn earned a tough kill to go back on top but the Hilltoppers were able to flip the lead in the next rotation thanks to a Miller hitting error and a Roberts kill. Summit began to open up a slight lead over the next few rotations with Wauters and Oberhuber notching blocks and Barlow ripping another kill to give the home side an 18-13 lead. A few rotations later, it seemed like an academic exercise as the Hilltoppers benefited from a Miller serving error and got a Roberts kill to see the scoreboard read 21-16. But someone forgot to send Millburn the memo and the visitors took advantage of Summit’s mental lapse and went on a 3-0 run (kill, ace, blocking error) that all of a sudden had the Millers within shouting distance at 21-19. Roberts again provided some relief with a kill to zone 1 but yet another kill by the Millburn middle had the Millers yet again at the doorstep at 22-20 but a serving error provided some stress release for the Top. Despite the pressure being on the visitors, it was the home side that seemed over anxious as the Top notched an attack error and a free ball return error to see the Millburn side tie the score 23-23 and force a Summit TO.
Off the time-out, Barlow was the target and she passed up a perfect 3 ball which led to a Roberts attack. The Millers dug it up but Thompson dug their attack up although the Hilltoppers were not able to do much with it. Luckily, neither did Millburn on the subsequent play and Thompson yet again played the ball, a perfect free ball pass, and Zacharias found Roberts for a kill to give Summit their first match point at 24-23. SHS could not capitalize as they suffered a service error and the subsequent play seemed to spell the end of Hilltopper run when SHS sent a serve receive pass easily over the net to the charged up Millers. Millburn tried to catch the Top off guard with a tip attempt wide but Roberts dug it up beautifully. Zacharias seemed to get her wires crossed with Oberhuber as she set a slide when it looked like Oberhuber had called a quick but the senior MB chased the set down and sent a screamer to the ground giving the Maroon and Black another match point and exciting the crowd in attendance. Zacharias then sent a serve that had the Millers slightly out of system. Millburn generated an attack that yet again Thompson dug up and Barlow attempted to put away but to no avail as the visitors desperately defended to keep their season alive. Another Millburn attack, another Thompson dig and this time it was Wauters who tried to finish it but yet again the Millers responded. Roberts then saved a certain Millburn kill and Thompson eventually attacked it (a reversal of roles) and it forced the visitors into perhaps an offensive option they would not have had if the Hilltoppers had merely settled for a free ball. The subsequent Miller attack was against the wall of Wauters and Oberhuber which altered the swing and led to a hitting error, sending the Hilltoppers to the semis of the state sectional tournament for the second consecutive year and only the 4th time in its history by virtue of a 26-24 set 2 win.
Summit out-scored the Millburn squad by an 18-11 tally (14-10 kill lead) in a set that saw the Millers pass much more efficiently but not be able to slow down the SHS attack.
The Lady Hilltoppers will try to get to the finals of the N2G3 Tourney for the first time in its history but they will have to do it on the road, at #2 Colonia, Friday, 11/5 at 4:30pm.