The Lady Hilltoppers traveled to Colonia to take on the Patriots in a N2G3 State-Sectional Semifinal matchup looking to make the finals for the first time in school history. Despite outscoring the Colonia Patriots in their 3 set affair, the Hilltoppers came up a little short in a 16-25, 25-19, 17-25 decision.
Set 1 began well for the Hilltoppers with Vivian Roberts tallying 2 quick kills to get the Top up 2-0. The Patriots came back to tie the score and over the next few rotations there was very little separating the sides and the SHS crew held a 6-5 lead. A 4-0 run by the Colonia squad gave the home team a 9-6 lead. SHS cut the lead down to 1 at 8-9 after a kill by Alison Wauters. Later in the set, after a Roberts kill had made it 10-11, the Patriots went on a 6-1 run that had the Top on the ropes at 11-17 and forced Coach Martins into a time-out. The pause seemed to help as the Maroon and Black went on a 4-2 run fueled by 2 Eva Oberhuber kills and 1 block. Unfortunately, the Colonia side responded with a 4-0 run and despite a service break (Oberhuber kill) to get the score to 15-23, the Patriots shut the door at 25-16. Summit out-killed the Patriots 11-9 but the home side had a 4-1 advantage in blocks/aces to show a slight 13-12 point lead over the Top. The difference in set 1 was the combination of serving, hitting and fault errors as SHS tallied 11 of those while Colonia only 3.
The Hilltoppers needed to be much more error free or.score more on offense if they were to turn around set 2 and indeed they did just that. After a mere 2 rotations, Summit saw themselves up 7-2 as Julia Nardino notched a kill along with 2 from Roberts and one from Zoe Zacharias while Hope Basaman hit for 2 aces in the run. The Patriots had closed the lead to within 3 at 9-6 but Wauters nailed a kill which Rebekah Thompson took full advantage of with 2 aces to force a TO by Colonia with the scoreboard showing 12-6. SHS kept pressuring the Colonia side and later in the set Summit seemed to have things under control after a Roberts kill had the Maroon and Black up 17-12. The Patriots had other ideas and won 5 of the next 7 points to get to within 2 a 19-17. SHS did not fold though but rather pushed back with a 5-1 run (Sarah Noa ace, Nardino block and a Hannah Barlow ace ) of their own to essentially kill the set and tie the semifinal match up at 1-1. Summit struck for 18 points (11k, 2blk, 6 ace) while Colonia managed only 10.
There was a sense of deja vu as the Hilltoppers had gone to three last season as well in their loss to Chatham and here the Summit Lady Hilltoppers were again, looking at 25 points away from a historic state sectional final berth. And early on, it seemed that the SHS squad was going to carry the momentum of the second set into the third and finish the job. Two kills by Roberts set the Maroon and Black up with a 3-1 lead but the Colonia team went on a 7-2 run to take an 8-5 lead forcing a Summit TO. The pause in action helped the troops settle down and Zacharias found Oberhuber for a kill after a Roberts perfect serve reception which then was followed by a Barlow tip kill to get SHS within one at 7-8. But just like last season, the lack of preciseness late cost the Summit ladies again as 2 net errors and an attack error later, the Patriots had regained control at 11-7. Summit kept playing its game though and got another Barlow kill and a Noa tough serve which caused an errant 2nd ball return to cut the lead to 9-11 but a ball handling error and an ace had the Patriots up by 4 again. Colonia opened the door for SHS with a serving error and Roberts made them pay with a kill.
But yet again, an unforced error -foot fault- broke the momentum and Colonia regained their footing at 14-11. SHS struck for another kill by Barlow but the Patriots finally took advantage of the Summit errors by not creating any of their own and struck for 2 kills and benefited from a Hilltopper hitting error to earn their biggest lead at 17-12 forcing Coach Martins into his final TO.
Yet again the ladies responded with a Noa perfect pass that set up a crushing kill by Oberhuber but a hitting error and ace later, Colonia had erased that slight setback and had extended the lead to 19-13. The glimmer of hope resurfaced as the Patriots served a ball way out of bounds and down by 5, if there was a move to be made, this was the time. Unfortunately, the move was the Patriot’s and with the score 20-14 it all felt unsurmountable.
But that has not been the character of this squad all season long and their grit was on full display under massive pressure and their backs against the wall. Thompson put up another perfect serve reception which Zacharias handed off to Oberhuber for another kill, 15-20. Thompson then delivered a serve that caused all kinds of problems for the Colonial squad which the Captain then received as a free ball which was perfectly delivered to Zacharias. The sophomore setter then found Barlow again who tipped the Hilltoppers to 16-20. The bench erupted, the fans cheered, hope. The Captain stepped up again and delivered with an ace that sent the team into a frenzy and belief was now present.
But it is during these moments that earlier mistakes come to haunt any team and the Hilltoppers just had no more room for errors and unfortunately, another 2 hitting errors became the reality in this moment in the match and the Colonia side put down 2 kills to slam the door on the Maroon and Black and end the great run to another state sectional semi-final.
SHS just couldn’t replicate the serving difficulty they had in set 2 as they hit for only 1 ace to 3 errors with only a 1.89 rating. In comparison, the team hit for 6 aces and 3 errors with a 2.24 rating in set 2. Thompson was outstanding in set 3 with a 2.60 serve rating. The Captain was also the team leader on serve receive with a 1.88 rating although the team passed for only 1.52 and was often out of system. Barlow left her best for last as the sophomore hit for 4 kills in the set and Oberhuber hit for 3 on only 5 swings and no errors to keep the Top alive at key junctures in the set. Defensively, Thompson and Roberts dug up 9 balls in the set (5 and 4 respectively) to anchor a defense that did all it could with Wauters notching the only block defensively as well.
For the match, team leaders
Thompson – 12/12 serving, 3 aces, 2.42 rating; 15/26 perfect pass 58% 2.19 rating; team leading 12 digs
Noa – 7/7 serving, 1 ace, 2.43 rating; 3/7 perfect pass 43% 2.14 rating
Roberts – 2nd on team 8 digs; team leading, season best and career best 14 kills, .323 efficiency and kill % of 45%; led team with season and career high 16 points
Oberhuber – 2nd on team 7 kills; .313 efficiency and kill % of 43.8%