2A REGIONAL VOLLEYBALL: W-G jump serves Hawks into submission

JEWELL – Scratching, clawing and diving for every point it could muster, the South Hamilton volleyball team suddenly found itself up 23-20 with a chance to close it out in the opening set against Woodward-Granger last night on Coach Jim Marsh Court.

And then W-G freshman Mary Hensen stepped behind the service line and changed the course of the match for good.

With a fastball of a jump serve in her repertoire, Hensen put the Hawks back on their heels and then finished off a five-point run with back-to-back aces to give her team the opening set.

It was a momentum shift that South Hamilton never recovered from.

With three freshmen in its lineup and every player using a jump serve, Woodward-Granger (24-15) won a pair of close sets and then rolled in the third and final set to oust South Hamilton, 25-23, 25-19, 25-15, in a Class 2A Region 5 quarterfinal.

“I did think our serve receive put up some pretty good balls, but it seemed like when it was at critical situations their serve pulled through and it was their serve that bothered us more than anything,” South Hamilton head coach Cindy Holmes said.

Neither team led by more than four points in the opening set and there were five lead changes, the last coming when Hensen took up occupancy behind the line.

More service prowess helped W-G jump ahead for good in the second set. This time it was fellow rookie Bree Lesch that uncorked an ace that put South Hamilton (12-15) in an 18-13 hole and it was unable to dig out.

A Lesch kill from the left side of the floor gave W-G set point and the visitors ended it two points later on a smash from another freshman, Olivia McCune, from the same spot on the floor.

South Hamilton notched the initial three points of the third set before W-G rattled off eight straight to take control for good.

Ady Wintermote, South Hamilton’s own freshman standout, again did her part with a team-high eight kills. She also had four blocks and eight digs.

Junior Tiffany Jacobson chipped in six kills and seven blocks, and sophomore Alyssa Hegland contributed five kills, three blocks and a team-best 13 digs.

With five of the core seven players returning next season, Holmes is confident her team will take another step in the right direction next fall. Still, that was little consolation when she thought of senior libero Hannah Pulis, who notched 11 digs, and classmate Molly Minich, who distributed nine assists.

“This was definitely a building block for next season … our outsides (Wintermote and Hegland) are going to be twice as good next year,” Holmes said. “But I’m just not ready to get past (last night) in the sense that it would have been nice to see them experience a little bit more.”

Woodward-Granger advanced to Friday’s regional semifinal in Lake City where it will face fifth-ranked South Central Calhoun. The Titans disposed of Prairie Valley in three sets in another regional quarterfinal last night.