COLUMBUS GROVE — Sectional volleyball action began Tuesday for Columbus Groveas the Bulldogs took on Bluffton.
The first set was close as the Bulldogs won that one 25-21.
They then took over in the last two sets to sweep out the Pirates 25-8, 25-6 to advance to the next round.
“We kind of let the scoreboard give us a swagger in the first set. That and we had the first tournament-game jitters and Bluffton’s attacking,” Grove head coach Adam Choi said. “Once we got by the first set, we started to play like I know we can play. One of the things that helped us – and we try to do all the time – is have balance throughout the lineup. Our two middles: Cassie Heilman and Peyton Brubaker; played very well today. Not only were they hitting the ball well but they do a good job of getting touches on the opponent’s hitting; that makes it easier for us to dig them up and get our offense going.”
Bluffton head coach Kevin King figured his team struggled against a solid team in Columbus Grove.
“They are a very good team. To show our struggles: our leading hitter, Libby Schaadt; didn’t have a kill tonight,” King said. “We struggled with our passing and it’s hard to get an offense going when you’re struggling with that. Our setters were having trouble getting the balls high enough for our hitters to get good attempts and it’s hard to get rolling when that happens. We were on point the first set but then Grove took over the last two sets.”
Bluffton (5-18) stayed with the Bulldogs (17-6) most of the first set as performers such as Kylie Stackhouse (4 kills; 4 blocks), Ashley Eachus (3 kills) and Schaadt (3 aces) led the way. On the other hand, Rylee Sybert (6 kills, 3 blocks), Haley Radabaugh (4 kills), Heilman (3 kills, 4 blocks) and Brubaker (3 kills, 2 aces) led the way for Grove. Bluffton’s last lead was at 15-14 on a hitting error on the Bulldogs (8 for the match for Grove versus 24 for Bluffton) and a 3-point stretch: a kill by Sybert, an ace by Abigail Gladwell and a hitting error; gave the lead to Grove for good. From then on in the first set, Grove was a bit more consistent with their defense and attacking and when Radabaugh tipped one over on set point, the opener was in Grove’s pocket.
A hitting error on the opening volley of the second set gave the lead to Grove and they never trailed. They began to take over at the net, despite the efforts of such Bluffton defenders such as Ameri Siferd (17 digs, 10 assists) and Kylie Monday (16 digs) as Grove continued to add to its lead. They totaled eight aces for the match to a mere three for Bluffton as they were just too solid this night for their foe, with the likes of Amy Vorst (8 digs, 2 aces), Emily Edinger (7 digs), Becca Choi (6 digs) and Sybert (5 digs) topping the defense. When Lauren Benroth’s serve went unreturned on set point, Grove had a two-set lead.
A net violation on Bluffton opened the third set and Grove led the entire way. Bluffton struggled to get its offensive attack going, allowing Grove to add to its lead. With them up 10-5 on a kill by Sybert, Benroth stepped to the service line and proceeded to serve up 13 straight points – two of them aces – as Grove was in complete control and Choi even subbed in backups toward the end. The only point for Bluffton came on a stuff by Eachus the remainder of the match and a kill by Heilman on match point sealed the sweep.