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MCDONALD'S GAME OF THE WEEK (SRW volleyball): Highland 3, Benton 2
Highland outlasts Benton in a thrilling five-set opener
Estee Goodwiler
Highland senior Estee Goodwiler makes a diving dig during the Cardinals dramatic five-set victory at Benton Thursday, Sept. 17.

MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Sept. 16–23)
VOLLEYBALL: HIGHLAND 3, BENTON 2

BENTON – After five hard-fought sets in their season opener, just two points separated Benton from Highland. Unfortunately, those two points proofed to be very, very important.

The visiting Cardinals (2-1 overall) erased an early 6-0 deficit at the start of the decisive fifth set, and then held off Zephyrs at the first game-point to pull out a thrilling 3-2 Six Rivers West victory in a marathon, two-and-a-half hour match played at Benton High School on Thursday, Sept. 17.

Each set was decided by the minimum of two points apiece with three of the five sets needing extra points to determine the winner. The Cardinals won sets one, 26-24, and two, 25-23, to grab an early 2-0 lead, and then the Zephyrs (0-2) rallied to win sets three, 25-23, and four, 27-25, to deadlock the match at 2-2.

The hosts pulled in front 6-0 in set five, but it was the Cardinals turn to rally as they fought back to tie the score at 14-14 lead on a block kill by junior Rachel Miller before grabbing the lead on an ace by senior Estee Goodwiler and then putting the set and the match away with another kill by Miller.

“I am extremely proud of this team, especially since we only have three seniors,” said Benton head coach Amanda Homb. “At times we showed out youth, but at other times I was really impressed with them. I told them not to hang their heads because they should be proud of what they did tonight.”

Benton took a 24-23 lead in set one following a kill by senior Taylor Mowry. Back-to-back unforced errors put Highland ahead 25-24 and an ace by senior Myah Hennessey sealed the Cards’ 26-24 win.

After trading the lead seven times in set one, the two Six Rivers West foes swapped the lead six more times early in set two until a 6-0 run allowed Highland to open up a 15-11 lead.

The Zephyrs fought back within a point five times down the stretch, but the guests held on to go ahead 2-0 after a kill by junior Katelyn Esser sealed a 25-23 decision.

Benton used an 11-3 scoring run early in set three to build up momentum and the stayed alive with a 25-23 decision of the own. Mowry tallied four kills in the set to keep the hosts in the match.

Highland looked to put the Zephyrs away in set four as they bolted out to a 12-3 lead following a 10-point service run by junior Tristin Imhoff. However, the hosts refused to go down without a fight. Sophomore Kailey Fawcett answered Highland’s run with a nine-point streak from the service line– which included four aces– to guide the Zephyrs into a 16-15 lead.

Highland regained the lead and got to match-point, but a kill and an ace by sophomore Jocelyn Cummins brought Benton even with the Cards at 24. Errors by each team deadlocked the score at 25 all. A tip kill by senior Claire Tiedeman put the hosts up again and a net violation by Highland allowed them to even the match at 2-2 with a 27-25 win.

“Across the board, I was pleased with how they stepped up in different positions throughout the night. They all played well,” Homb noted.

Mowry and Tiedeman finished with seven kills and three aces apiece to lead the Zephyrs on the night. Tiedeman also tallied a team-high 16 digs.

Fawcett led the team with four aces and 20 assists. Sophomore Zoe Stluka registered 15 blocks, while Cummins chipped in with 13 digs, five blocks and three aces.

Highland did it again Tuesday night, rallying from a two games to none deficit to defeat visiting Shullsburg 20–25, 27–29, 26–24, 25–22, 15–12 to improve to 3–1 on the season.