- Val T.
Caston beats North Miami, wins first sectional match since 2004
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ROYAL CENTER –- The Caston volleyball team won the first game against North Miami in their Class 1A, Sectional 52 quarterfinal at Pioneer High School Thursday, but they trailed 23-22 in Game 2 when coach Melinda Shultz called timeout.
Caston had led 10-3 earlier in Game 2. But at this point, winning their first sectional match since 2004 wasn’t going to be easy.
But then North Miami’s Ellie Musselman missed a serve long. Caston freshman Isabel Scales followed with a service winner. And after North Miami’s Joey Witmeyer sent an off-balance shovel long past the baseline, the game was Caston’s.
The Lady Comets then closed out the Lady Warriors 25-14, 25-23, 25-17, beating North Miami for the third time this year and ending their 16-year postseason drought.
“The good thing about these girls is that they expect it,” Shultz said. “They want to win, and they know how to win, and they expect to win. You know, I know we’re going up against a good team Saturday, but our best volleyball this year has been against really good teams. I think we can rise to the challenge and at least compete.”
Maddi Smith led Caston with eight kills. Layne Oliver led in both points with 14 and aces
with five. Scales had three blocks.
“She’s done a really great job this year of not playing like a freshman,” Shultz said of Scales. “She really knows how to step up to those game moments. She doesn’t back down. She doesn’t get scared or shy away. Even at the net, she’s not afraid to hit. All we asked her to do was put the ball in the court and play from there, and she was able to do that.”
Scales isn’t the only freshman who is contributing. Addison Zimpleman’s role has evolved from more of a defensive role into more of an all-court role where she is even sprinkling in some attacks, according to Shultz.
“Addison and Isabel really do their part,” Smith added. “They’re really good back row players. ‘Bel’ is a great middle. She knows what she’s doing, and they’ve learned so much and improved over the season, just this season.”
North Miami led Caston 7-5 in Game 3 before Caston went on a 17-3 run to take a 22-10 lead. North Miami scored five straight points to get within 22-15, but Caston would close it out on an Abby Williamson kill.
“That means a lot,” Smith said. “That’s really good because we’ve been really working on improving as a team. Getting in the clubs and stuff like that has really gotten us to this point. We’re really excited for Saturday.”
Caston (12-15) will play No. 5 Northfield at approximately 12:30 p.m. in the sectional semifinals. No. 3 Pioneer will meet Lakeland Christian in the first semifinal at 11 a.m. The winners return at 7 p.m. for the sectional final.
Caston also beat North Miami in a tournament at North Miami on Aug. 22 and in a home regular season match on Sept. 28.
North Miami, coached by Caston grad and former Caston coach Steve Linn, finished 1-30.
The momentum of the match might have turned when Rebekah Milburn stepped behind the line with Game 1 tied at 7-7.
She followed with three straight aces.
With Caston leading 11-8, senior Layne Oliver took over with a tipp, a roll shot and then a kill. When Scales dismissed a North Miami overpass, Musselman dumped an attack into the net and Smith put away a kill, Caston was ahead 18-8.
“Yeah, I was proud that we came back, but our first set was our best volleyball, and I wish that we could have kept some of that momentum going,” Shultz said. “But I was happy that they didn’t get their heads down and just give it up from there. I think it shows our resiliency of this year. In past years, we maybe would have still been playing out there, but they were able to dig in when they really needed to and make it count.”
Caston def. North Miami, 25-14, 25-23, 25-17
Layne Oliver - 14 points, 5 aces; Addison Zimpleman - 7 points; Rebekah Milburn - 5 points, 4 aces; Maddi Smith - 8 kills; Isabel Scales - 3 blocks