Sammy Miller is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University covering Highland High School athletics.
Highland’s volleyball team was unable to put a stop to Basha’s electric and fast-paced offense that was firing from all cylinders, leading to a 3-1 loss at home.
The Hawks’ junior middle blocker Jewel Carling and the Bears’ senior outside hitter Chloe Murakami took complete control of the match, with Carling’s 11 kills and three blocks and Murakami’s 21 kills and five aces. In the end, Basha’s use of not only its strong pin hitters but also its middle’s high volleyball IQ, allowed it to defeat Highland in four sets.
“We are really just trying to compete every day,” Highland head coach Tait Neilson said. “Whether that is practice or a match, we are just trying to compete as hard as we can every single day, and then we just accept the results.”
Both teams' opening series of plays were filled with out-of-system passing and sets off the net, but as the first set progressed the setters began to find a solid rhythm with their hitters. The Hawks and Bears were not letting up, forcing the set to come down to the final play, when Murakami hit a cross-court kill, securing the 28-26 Basha win.
Highland came out flat in the second set with poor communication and numerous hitting errors, but it was its senior middle blocker Claire Pothier who kept the Hawks in the set. Pothier’s dominant defense at the net coupled with her variety of swings from across the front row, was hard for the Bears to stop.
Murakami’s lethal line shots led the Bears to fight back at the end, but it wasn’t enough to get the win, losing 25-23.
“As a team, we have this thing where we just press our imaginary button on our arm, and it allows us to completely forget about the last play and try to think about the next play, which helped us so much,” Pothier said.
Highland had another slow start in the third, and Basha took advantage of this pushing an early 7-2 lead. The Bears were extremely aggressive from the service line, causing trouble for the Hawks’ back row. Highland was unable to get a consistent pass, leading to out-of-system balls that were hard to put away, whereas Basha was able to pass a consistent ball and execute its offensive schemes.
This defensive difference was critical in Basha’s success, and 25-17 third set win.
“We need to work on our serve receive and be more consistent,” sophomore outside hitter Sage Salazar said. “Especially because our middles don’t get set a lot but are able to put the ball away so well, so if we get better at serve receive, then I think we can set up our middles a lot more.”
The fourth set was back and forth to start, with both teams being extremely scrappy on defense not allowing a ball to drop. But it was Salazar and Pothier that were getting into an offensive rhythm, causing a Hawks 11-6 run. Murakami wasn’t letting up though and would go on to get three aces in a row, paving the way for a Bear’s 25-17 victory in the fourth and their 8th win of the season.
“We are trying to be as consistent as possible and trying to find the players that are going to be the most consistent,” Neilson said. “It’s tough because we don’t have a ton of experience, so we are trying to find girls that are really going to step up for us and take control and take that lead in matches.”
Highland, now 10-10, will need to learn from its mistakes while putting this game behind it and shift its focus immediately to its next match against Perry High School on Thursday.