Hammond beat archrival Heathwood Hall 3-1 in a SCISA Region 1-3A volleyball match on Tuesday.
The host Skyhawks dropped the first game of the match, 25-22, to the on-the-rise Highlanders before winning out the rest of the way to improve to 6-0 overall in regular season matches, 3-0 in region matters. Heathwood Hall, a young team that became relevant for the first time last season under new coach Ashly Berry, suffered its first setback in four outings to date.
“It wasn’t the best match we’ve played; we missed too many serves and just made a lot of mental mistakes, but at the end of the day we kept it together and pulled it out,” said Hammond coach Andy Edgren.
“Maybe some of it was caused by the girls being so keyed up because it’s an intense rivalry and the fact that Heathwood is a vastly improved team.”
The difference was Hammond’s balanced attack triggered by junior setter Kiley Lawrence who had 36 assists setting the table for hitters Bailey Dukes, Emily Bakhaus, Caroline Hudon, Mary Ashley Reeves and Hannah Alexander. Dukes led the Skyhawks hit parade with a match-high 21 kills, followed by Bakhaus (9), Hudon (8), Reeves (7) and Alexander (6).
“Bailey is a great hitter, but we have more options at the net than we’ve ever had,” said Edgren.
Heathwood Hall junior star A’ja Wilson did have the luxury of such support. Wilson had her usual outstanding all-around performance (17 kills, 6 aces, 1 block), but the only other true option when Wilson was off the front line was Chelsea Joseph, who had nine kills.
“Overall, I was pleased with the performance, but we still have the tendency fall apart at times,” said Berry.
“It’s all a part of the process we started last season when the made the state tournament for the first time. We haven’t played in enough big games to know how to play in big games. Hopefully, we’ll keep learning and be more prepared as the season goes on.”
Wilson had eight kills and three aces in Heathwood’s 25-23 win in the first game, but the Highlanders managed only two kills (both by Wilson) as the attack ground to a halt in a 25-13 second-game loss. Dukes and Lawrence picked up the pace for the Skyhawks in the second with eight kills and 12 assists, respectively.
The key third game went into “overtime” before the Skyhawks emerged with a 29-27 win. The Highlanders took a 27-26 lead on a serving ace by setter Neha Penmetsa, but a hitting error tied the score and sent the serve over to Hammond. The Skyhawks then put it away on kills by Dukes and Bakhaus.
Heathwood took a quick lead in the fourth game, but the Skyhawks seized control with Lawrence at the serving line and never looked back. Lawrence had six straight serving points (three on aces) to turn a 6-4 deficit into a 10-6 Hammond lead on the way to a 25-17 win that ended the match.