NEW HOPE — Volleyball matches go by pretty quickly when your opponent can’t return your serves, and that’s why the New Hope High School volleyball team needed just 50 minutes to dispatch Canton 25-10, 25-4, 25-6 in the opening round of the MHSAA Class 5A tournament Tuesday night.
On serve after serve, the Tigers had no answers, particularly for Megan Neeb, who served 10 consecutive points during the first set, 13 consecutive points during the second and 6 consecutive points during the third. Unofficially, 19 of those points went down as aces, with attempts to receive serve going backward, toward the bleachers, right to the floor and just about anywhere other than over the net.
“We didn’t know anything about them, to be honest,” New Hope coach Allison Woolbright said. “I tried to find film, I tried to make contact, but nobody that I know knew anything about them.”
But in a way, that fact was a good sign for the Trojans; had the Tigers played a competitive schedule there would have been more news around them.
“I didn’t know anybody that they played on their schedule, so I had an inkling,” Woolbright said. “I kind of felt like the fact I didn’t know anybody they played might be a good thing in our favor.”
And it was.
New Hope (14-8) led 5-3 when Neeb served for the first time, not handing the ball back to Canton until it was 16-4. Four of the next 6 points scored by the Tigers came on attacking errors, as New Hope kept finding the net when going for a kill. But with a comfortable lead, it was only a matter of time before the Trojans finished the set.
The second set was even more one-sided. Kensley Woolbright served the first 4 points with 2 aces, Annie Woolbright took the ball at 5-1 and served 4 points, all aces, then Neeb took over at 10-3 and gave it back at 23-4, adding 8 more aces, including 4 in a row. After a rare service error — the Trojans made just two despite serving most of the night — a Zoe Goodman kill and a carry on Clinton (10-5) wrapped up a 25-4 romp.
“It was a serving game tonight, and that’s something that a lot of teams struggle with, serve-receive,” Allison Woolbright said. “If you can’t receive, you’re going to be in trouble because you can’t get anything started.
“Our girls were on it tonight. I think all of my servers except for one player had aces tonight.”
The Tigers took an early 2-1 lead in the third set, but Neeb’s shortest serving run of the night gave the Trojans an 8-3 edge. An ace from Lexi McBrayer, 2 aces from Madyson McBrayer highlighted an 8-3 run before Kensley Woolbright brought it home, recording 6 aces over the final 8 points to clinch the third set.
The Trojans next will face Lake Cormorant, which swept Cleveland Central by scores of 25-10, 25-14 and 25-12 on Tuesday night.
“We played them the past couple of years,” Allison Woolbright said. “They put us out last year in the playoffs. We played them once this year in Tupelo early in the season; they beat us, but it was a close match.”
New Hope will look to avenge that 25-22, 26-24 defeat in the second round of the tournament on Thursday.