Nothing appeared out of the ordinary during the varsity volleyball Fighting Scots’ three-set victory over Lumberton Tuesday night.
The team was its usual dominant self, winning 25-15, 25-15, 25-17 against a Pirates squad that gave them some trouble in fits and spurts. But it was during the occasional break in the action that the absence of head coach David Barnes became apparent.
This past Saturday, Barnes underwent surgery on the same hip which was surgically repaired last year. Though Barnes is currently recovering, there is no time table for his return to the court and the team is prepared to be without their coach for the remainder of the season.
“We’ll just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season,” said senior Caroline Pridgen, who is the current holder of every Scotland hitting record including kills.
“As a team, we’ll have to keep our heads up and play the rest of the season for coach Barnes,” she said.
Though Lumberton would hang with the Fighting Scots at the onset of the first game, Scotland would quickly take over and pull away for the 10-point victory. Lumberton’s Aliyah Ratley was rock solid in the beginning, tying the first game at 5-5 after a great diving dig set up teammate Megan Skipper for a kill that Scotland couldn’t defend.
But as they did in the Scots’ five-set endurance test with Pinecrest last week, Maddie Milholland and Greta Griswold would jump-start their team with several big plays.
Griswold would notch the majority of her seven combined kills in the first game, while Milholland proved to be a force at the net with key blocks and lightly-placed kills of her own that would land in the gaps of the Lumberton defense. Both were instrumental in a 10-3 run in the first game that got the Scots off to their usual strong start.
The Pirates would counter with a combination of length and crisp serving in the second game that again saw them pull into contention with the Scots.
Serving for Lumberton in the second game, Jenna Smith notched three aces to help her team spark a 4-1 run that brought them into a 5-5 tie yet again with Scotland. And as the only player on Lumberton that could contend with Scotland’s size, Katlyn Singletary deflected several attempted kills from Pridgen and Libby Ingram, including three consecutive blocks to keep Lumberton in the second game.
But Griswold would help her team seal the deal yet again, with one of her team-high four aces ending the second game emphatically as she rocketed the ball over the net to secure the 25-15 Scotland victory.
The third and deciding game saw the Scots exploit a recurring pattern to seal the overall victory.
The one-two punch of Jessi Kee and Ingram would help Scotland pull away for good in the third game, as Kee perfectly placed set after set for Ingram to blast punishing kills right at Lumberton’s defense, including a stretch where Kee and Ingram collaborated for seven consecutive points during a 9-2 Scotland run.
Also invaluable for Scotland were Avery Callahan and Brianna Harris, who had eight and 15 assists, respectively. Pridgen would have a game-high 17 kills on the night as well.
With the win, Scotland pulls to 12-0 on the season.
If Barnes is unable to return to his coaching duties during the regular season, Molly Hayes will assume the role of leading the surging Scots down the final stretch of the season. And in the quest for an eighth-straight Southeastern Conference championship, Hayes will continue to employ the same strategies that have turned Scotland into a perennial contender.
“All of our girls are used to working with one another and this coaching staff,” said Hayes after Tuesday’s match. “While coach Barnes has big shoes to fill, I’m not worried one bit about us missing a step.”
The JV Scots would also prove victorious against Lumberton Tuesday night, winning consecutive sets 25-19, 25-21 to move to 8-4 on the season. Hailey Clark again led her team in kills with four, while Patricia Jones was effective as a server for the Fighting Scots, rifling off a game-high 13 serves in the contest. Tessa Supplee would lead her team with six assists as well.