BAKER – The Laurel Hill and Baker schools are separated by about a dozen country miles in north Okaloosa County. However, while the Hobo and Gator volleyball teams both play in District 1-1A there is a much greater figurative distance between the two squads.
Baker’s volleyball team is the picture of consistency rolling off one district championship after another and finishing second in the state last year.
On the other hand, the Hobos find themselves in yet another rebuilding process under first-year coach Ashley Miller, the fourth Laurel Hill volleyball coach in the last four years.
Laurel Hill traveled to Baker on Tuesday for a District 1-1A match, and it should come as no surprise that the battle-proven Gators made short work of their neighbors to the northeast in sweeping the match in three sets by scores of 25-8, 25-14, 25-17.
The trip to Baker was a trip home for Miller, a former star on the Gator volleyball team and the final score didn’t surprise her. She understands it takes time to build a program and she focused on the positives that can be found in a loss.
“I don’t think that was an embarrassment by any means,” Miller said of the final score. “We are focused on making a goal and getting better every week. Baker is the first team that has run a consistent offense on us and I was marginally happy with our defense.
“Now we will need to pick our offense up to keep pace with it because the teams we’ve been playing up until now haven’t been running as much offense as that. We knew this would be the best team we face coming here. And we hope when see them again in the future we will be a little more of a challenge for them.”
The Gators (12-2, 5-0) threatened to run away with the match early as they jumped to quick 7-2 lead in the first set and poured it on from there.
A score by Laurel Hill’s Kaylee L’ Homme temporarily broke the Gator momentum, but only for a moment.
A Katie Wickery kill opened the door for quick 4-0 run by the Gators that ended with a Hana Wadsworth kill to make the score 11-3. The rest of the set belonged to Baker as the only Hobo points came on Gator miscues.
The second set was more of the same as the Gators roared to a 5-0 lead and never allowed Laurel Hill to get closer than three points at 6-3.
Wickery continued to have a big match for the Gators with multiple service ace mixed in with some kills.
Bridget Zessin delivered a big play for Laurel Hill when she challenged Wickery at the net and came away with a big block that led to a Laurel Hill point.
The Hobos made things interesting for a little while in the third and final set as they battled to a 10-9 lead, but that’s when the talent and experience of Gators took over as Baker went on a 5-0 run to take a 14-0 lead and control of the final set.
As is normally the case a number of Baker players contributed to the win.
Wickery led the way with 10 aces, five digs, four assists and four kills. Savannah Risen had five aces, five assists, three digs and a kill.
Wadsworth had six kills to lead the Gators. Jordan Linzy had four digs, three kills and two assists. And Haley Wagner had six digs, two aces and two kills.
Baker coach Jamie Kerrell was pleased by the Gators’ skillful effort.
“We just try to stay focused and stay on top of things and that each game to make sure that we are getting better and improving,” he said. ‘We are trying to fine tune things so when the district tournament rolls around we are firing on all cylinders and we are where we need to be.
“We are coming out and doing the things that we need to do, and that’s what it’s about.”