Burn-ing up: 14-point serving run helps Caston turn momentum, top Peru in 4 sets
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FULTON — The Caston volleyball team lost the first game to visiting Peru Monday and trailed the second game 12-8 when Rebekah Milburn stepped behind the service line and everything changed.
Caston then won the next 14 points with Milburn being responsible for four aces and two service winners.
Caston went on to win 25-27, 25-15, 25-13, 25-23 to improve to 3-3.
“I think it was Rebekah Milburn’s serves,” Caston coach Melinda Shultz answered when asked what the turning point was. “Definitely. That gave us the kick that we needed. And once we got momentum, everybody else stepped up in all their spots, and we started playing more like what we were playing Saturday (at the Tomahawk Invitational at North Miami).”
After winning Games 2 and 3, Game 4 was tighter. An Isabel Scales kill in the deep left corner gave Caston a 23-22 lead. A Layne Oliver serve error made it 23-23, but Peru’s Shelby Renn went long on a kill try to give Caston match point.
A stuff block from Scales closed out the match and set off a celebration on Caston’s side of the net.
“I’m really happy because sometimes that’s hard to get through to a freshman,” Shultz said. “They get scared up at the net, and so they don’t want to hit the ball anymore when it’s close like that. She knew when it was smart to tip and when it was time to hit the ball. That’s something that’s hard to teach, but I’m glad she was there.”
Caston had a set point in Game 1 at 24-23. But after an epic rally, Peru was awarded a point after a Caston net violation, and kills by Kaitlyn Miller and Cate Wolfe eventually led to Peru taking the set.
“We’re more connected, and we talk a lot more,” Caston senior Layne Oliver said. “We have each other’s back and everything. You don’t really practice that. It just comes together. It’s just a lot of team bonding and everything like that. The energy and attitudes are just a lot better this year.”
Caston won 30 of 36 points in a stretch covering the second and third games. A five-point stretch that included an Isabel Scales stuff block, a Scales ace, a Scales service winner and two Maddi Smith kills made it 13-3 in Game 3.
Game 4 was much closer. Two Oliver aces and a Maddi Smith kill from the back row helped Caston lead 4-2. The lead would reach 8-4 before Peru scored the next four points. Another four-point Caston run made it 12-8. They still led 18-15 after an Abby Williamson roll shot, but Peru tied it at 19-19 after an Oliver kill error.
Peru would go ahead 21-20 after Milburn, a senior setter, was called for a double-hit, but a Milburn blind shovel dropped for a kill, and Williamson followed with an ace to give Caston a 22-21 lead.
But a controversial call four-hits call on Caston - the officials said a Scales attack hit the net while Caston thought it deflected back on Caston’s side off the Peru block - made it 22-all.
Still, Caston pulled through. Asked how important confidence is, Oliver said “all of it.”
“You can have as much skill as you want, but if you don’t have confidence to do it, your mind won’t let you,” Oliver said.
Peru came out in a two-setter system. Freshman Shelby Renn and junior lefty Cate Wolfe were both the setters and among the top hitters. Pioneer jumped out to an 8-1 lead in Game 1.
“We knew that their setters were going to be their strong hitters too,” Shultz said. “It took us awhile to get in the game defensively, I think. But that is a defense that we’re pretty used to seeing overall.”
Caston improved to 3-3 with the win. They went 1-3 at the Tomahawk Invitational, but Shultz said she thought the team was competitive playing against tougher teams. The Lady Comets travel to Pioneer Thursday. Pioneer is the 14-time defending sectional champion, and they will host this year’s sectional.
“They’re looking forward to it,” Shultz said. “That’s always something to strive for. Going up against Pioneer, we know that they’re going to be good. But we really think that we can give them a good volleyball game.
“And if we do what we know how to do and put the ball on their side of the court, we’ve got a good chance of having them make the mistakes.”
Said Oliver: “I want to beat them on their senior night.”
Rebekah Milburn - 24 points; Abby Williamson - 6 kills, 4 blocks; Maddi Smith - 10 kills