Highlands Middle School volleyball team comes out strong against Blue Ridge

Highlands Middle School volleyball team was fired up from the beginning playing at Blue Ridge on Tuesday for their last game of the season. Highlands swept the Lady Bobcats 3-0 and Blue Ridge Head Coach Denise Ballentine said her team needed to move and communicate more, but also stay positive.

“It’s something I have preached all season,” said Ballentine. “Highlands had a great attitude. We just need to work on ours a bit, but both teams played well.”

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Gracie McCall (left) and Ashlynn Wilson both prepare to receive the ball from Blue Ridge on Tuesday. Highlands won 3-0.

Highlands Head Coach Angela Swain said the girls may have played the best game of their season. She said the team ran hard, passed well, communicated as a unit and had excellent sets from Ashlynn Wilson throughout all three games.

“I was telling the other coach (Ballentine) that I’m finally seeing the culmination of what we’ve been working towards all season,” said Swain. “The girls did awesome and I’m so proud of them. They have a lot of potential and that was fully realized today.”

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Blue Ridge players said they had to adapt to playing against a hitting team like Highlands not often seen in the middle school tier of play.

Some players say it’s easy to think what they could have done after the fact, but Blue Ridge 8th-grader Mahala Stewart said if they just turned up the intensity a little bit they would have performed better.

“We just didn’t do our best,” said Stewart. “We could have tried harder calling the ball and passing it to the setter.”

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Blue Ridge kept up steady pressure on the scoreboard but couldn’t close a set with a win.

And Highlands brought the heat with hitters Sydney Figel, Emily Briggs, and Gracie McCall who some players said they aren’t used to facing that type of play at this level.

“Their tips were definitely hard to stop and the fact that they do hits is difficult,” said Blue Ridge 6th-grader Isabella Moody. “I’m always scared it’s going to come to me. But I played well, I just need to talk more.”

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Gracie McCall spikes the ball against Blue Ridge on Tuesday.

Several Highlands players said it was a great way to close 2018 volleyball season.

“It feels really good,” said Highlands 6th-grader Shirley Diaz. “I’m proud of ourselves and it’s a really good way to end the season.”

Highlands 6th-grader Katie Earp said a big part of Tuesday’s success was staying mentally focused and determined.

“I think we played pretty good,” said Earp. “We were scrappy, we wanted it and we went for it.”

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Alisha Chastain (left) and Emily Briggs both go for a freeball against Blue Ridge.

Earp added that it wasn’t smooth sailing winning all three sets.

“Some of their (Blue Ridge) serves were really hard,” she said. “They almost got a lot of points on us because of it. But it feels good to win.”

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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