By DAVE HANNEMAN
BLUFFTON — Arlington’s first set was a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, not surprising for a young volleyball team.
The next two sets were a testament, though, to a program that is undefeated, state-ranked and what it takes to be that way.
Arlington led Bluffton by just three points on three occasions midway through the first set of Tuesday’s nonleague matchup. The Red Devils were up just 15-12 and 18-14 with the set on the line.
Two kills and a stuff block by Lauren Alexander fueled a game-ending 6-2 run, however, and Arlington took quick leads and dominated the second and third sets in rolling to a 25-16, 25-12, 25-11 victory over the Pirates.
“I think we just had a slow start. It took the girls a little bit to get into their rhythm,” Arlington coach Diana Inbody said of a team with just two seniors on the roster.
“But once they found it, they hit their stride. We weren’t happy with that first game so we decided to change things up, and our two seniors (Lindsay Werst, Britnee Johnson) led the way. They decided we needed to kick it into gear and, once we did, we cleaned up our passing, we were able to execute our offense more cleanly and defensively we really started to pick it up.”
Arlington, ranked No. 2 among Ohio’s Division IV schools in the first Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association poll released Tuesday, improved to 9-0 on the season. Bluffton fell to 0-3.
“Any experience helps,” said Inbody, noting the significant difference in the number of matches each team had played before Tuesday’s contest. “We played a lot of volleyball this summer and we’ve played nine matches so far (this fall). We still have lot of games ahead of us we’re looking forward to. Our goal is just to get better every match.”
Bluffton went 15-8 last season. But just three letterwinners return for first-year head coach Kevin King.
“I really think it (game experience) does make a big difference, especially when you’re taking over a program and running a different offense and a different defense,” King said. “We’ve run two different offenses and used two different setters (in three matches). We’re still finding some things, but it takes time. We need time to meld, to get some fluidity and get some rhythm.”
Unforced errors cost Bluffton early, including seven service errors in the first set. Arlington did not take advantage, though, until Alex Russell, with a block and a kill, and Alexander sparked the late run.
Werst and Alexander ignited a 5-1 start to the second set, Johnson’s block and kill triggered a 4-0 Arlington run, that made it 11-5, and, with Johnson on the service line, Russell (kill, block), Werst (two kills) and Alexander keyed a 6-0 burst. Two kills by Werst and Johnson’s block sealed it.
Werst had seven kills in the third set, accounting for five of Arlington’s first 11 points as the Red Devils raced ahead 11-3. The margin stretched to 19-8 and 22-9 before Arlington closed it out.
“I think we backed off on our aggressiveness (after the first set) and that’s something we needed to be against very, very good team,” King said. “That’s a team that works very well together, that was obvious.”
Arlington returns to Blanchard Valley Conference action with a home match today against Cory-Rawson. Looming on the horizon are BVC matches against unbeaten and No. 1-ranked McComb (Sept. 17) and unbeaten and No. 7-ranked Leipsic (Sept. 22).
“I’m really excited about how competitive the BVC is,” Inbody said. “We have a lot of big goals this season, but we also have a lot of work to do before we can get to those goals.”
SERVING: Whitney Dodds 15-18, Lindsay Werst 11-12, Abbey Dempster 9-9. ACES: Werst 2, Dodds 2. KILLS: Werst 11, Lauren Alexander 6, Britnee Johnson 6. SPIKING: Werst 20-22, Alexander 12-15, Johnson 9-10. ASSISTS: Shayna Helms 17, Dempster 12. SETTING: Helms 33-33, Dempster 22-23. SERVE RECEIVE: Werst 9-10, Dodds 7-7. DIGS: Dodds 9, Werst 9. BLOCKS: Alexander 6, Alex Russell 3, Jayme Webb 3.
KILLS: Kathryn Basinger 6, Andie Schmutz 4. ASSISTS: Sidney Joseph 12. DIGS: Basinger 10, Haley Baker 9, Lauren Parkins 7, Joseph 7.