CATAWBA — The Bunker Hill volleyball team has seven seniors on its roster, including all six starters. The Bears’ experience certainly stood out on Tuesday night, as they topped host Bandys by a 3-1 score (25-23, 25-15, 21-25, 25-18) in a closely contested match to remain undefeated.
“Honestly, I owe it all to my seniors,” Bunker Hill head coach Kelsey Dettman said of her team’s early-season success. “… I’ve got really great leaders, I’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of athleticism in that group, and the juniors supplement where they need to in order to make us a well-rounded team.”
Every set was nip and tuck, with a late burst in the opening set lifting Bunker Hill (4-0) to a narrow win. The score was tied at 15-all before the Bears scored four points in a row. The Trojans responded with a run of their own to get within a point, but two of the final points were kills by Bunker Hill’s Sarah Houston as the visitors captured a two-point set victory.
Early in the second set, it looked like Bandys (1-2) was perhaps on its way to evening the match. The Trojans built an 11-8 lead at one point thanks to a 3-0 spurt that included back-to-back blocks from Hannah Byrd and Toriy Culliver. However, Bunker Hill battled back to tie things at 12 apiece before the Trojans surged ahead once again.
The Bears responded in a big way after Bandys retook the lead, as they scored 12 straight points in what would prove to be the biggest run of the contest for either squad. Bunker Hill’s Bailee Hamlett tied things at 13-all with a kill before recording an ace to put the Bears ahead. She later added two more aces as Bunker Hill built a 24-13 lead en route to a 10-point set win.
Bandys was finally able to gain momentum in the third set. After the Bears lost Houston to an apparent leg injury late in the second set, the Trojans scored the first point of the third set. While Bunker Hill countered with two straight points, the next five points went to Bandys, one on a perfectly placed shot from Katie Townsend and another on a block from Culliver.
Bunker Hill continued to make it difficult for Bandys to sustain an advantage throughout the set, but the Trojans were able to quell one Bears comeback attempt after another. Midway through the set, Bandys’ Culliver registered a kill to make the score 16-14 before the Trojans won one of the longest rallies of the night. Byrd followed with an ace, and from there the hosts closed things out, ultimately gaining the final point of the set on a Byrd kill to win by four points.
The Bears had one more run in them late in the fourth set. Like in the first set, the teams again found themselves tied at 15-all before an 8-2 spurt by Bunker Hill effectively put Bandys away. The Trojans helped the Bears’ cause by committing several errors down the stretch, which allowed Bunker Hill to widen the gap between the teams before ending the set and the match on a Hamlett block.
“It was definitely tough, especially after Sarah got hurt,” said Dettman. “She’s a huge presence on the team, both in passing and in hitting and overall leadership. But we set a goal today to finish in three sets and I feel like the team stuck to that even with a little bump in the road and even though they took us four. We adjusted well and we came out and we still played and still finished strong.”
Bunker Hill travels to Newton-Conover on Wednesday before hosting East Lincoln on Thursday. Meanwhile, Bandys is at South Caldwell on Wednesday before visiting Maiden next Tuesday.
“I think the difference for us is always momentum,” Bandys head coach Carlee Belk said of Tuesday’s loss. “We talked on our side about how getting momentum early is so important; it’s always easier to play when you’re ahead than it is when you’re behind.
“When you’re behind you have to play safe, when you’re ahead you can really unleash, and so that’s something that I think right now we’re just working through,” she added. “We’re working through if we don’t start ahead of the game, how do we play hard but also smart. We’re just learning how to balance that.”