John Bruce, Contributor
CHILLICOTHE — After dropping a tough opening set, Zane Trace coach Cyndi Davis had confidence that her experienced Pioneers would be able to bounce back.
That’s precisely what they did in their four-set win over Unioto on Tuesday night in both teams’ Scioto Valley Conference opener.
“I truly believe that what helps [in those situations] is the experience. They have been in there since they were freshmen,” Davis said of her group.
Unioto (2-1, 0-1 SVC) won a nip-and-tuck first set by a 25-21 final, behind a great overall effort from Sydney McGlone, Carissa Wheeler and Kacey Pierce. The trio of hitters were outstanding both offensively and defensively, keeping the Pioneers’ defense off-balance.
However, that would be the extent of the Shermans’ momentum for the evening.
Beginning with a 4-0 run to start the second set, the Pioneers (3-0, 1-0 SVC) were off and running to a dominant 25-12 win that was never in question.
With great service from Elizabeth Harber, Kinley May, and Lexi Betts, the Pioneers kept the Tanks on their heels and were able to use attackers Emily Allen and Laynee Hill in a variety of different ways to dominate the game.
In the third, Zane Trace jumped out to a 10-4 lead, but Unioto’s Pierce and Sophie Coleman helped get the Tanks back into it with a quick 5-0 run, cutting the deficit to 10-9 and giving Unioto a much-needed boost.
But, behind sophomore Gracey McCullough and the all-around play of Alli Bennett, the Pioneers would not be denied, winning the set, 25-20. That sequence was impressively finished with back-to-back kills from Lexi Scott.
Unioto didn’t lie down, battling throughout the fourth and even holding a 17-13 lead late in the proceedings. But that’s where the experience and will of the Pioneers showed through one more time.
Winning 12 of the final 16 points of the evening, with several coming due to spectacular plays from its defense, Zane Trace pounded in the final nail on a 25-21 match-clinching victory.
Bennett led the way for ZT with 13 kills, 14 assists and 19 digs while Scott had nine kills and six digs. Hannah Hale added six kills and five assists to the mix, Betts ended with 12 digs and was 29-of-29 from the service line, May totaled 20 assists and 11 digs, and Allen had 10 kills and three blocks.
The Pioneers are back in action on Thursday, hosting Southeastern, while the Shermans try and bounce back the same evening, traveling to Huntington.
“The SVC is tough. Every night, you can’t count anyone out,” Davis said following the game. “When we went into the locker room, I said, ‘Welcome to the SVC’, because this is the way it is going to be each night out.”