LAUREL HILL — A trip to the Class 1A region finals seemed to be within reach of the Laurel Hill School volleyball team Tuesday night against Blountstown.
The Hoboes opened the region semifinal match in impressive form taking the first two sets from the Tigers. The Tigers might have been down, but they weren’t out.
Blountstown rallied back from the two-set deficit to beat the Hoboes 15-25, 21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-9.
Laurel Hill Coach Kent Zessin would have liked to have seen his team come out on top, but he knew heading into the match that the Hoboes would have their hands full with the Tigers.
“I knew coming in it was going to be a battle,” he said. “Blountstown is a really good team. Of course everybody is at this point is good or they wouldn’t be here.
“I thought we had a very good game plan coming into the match that we executed about to perfection. I really felt what hurt us tonight was our serve. We averaged over 93 percent for the season (of serves in) on our serves and tonight we served 87 percent with 17 misses.”
Little went wrong for the Hoboes (17-9) in the first two sets.
Blountstown jumped to a quick 3-1 lead in the first set before Laurel Hill took control of things. Hoboes Jhanea Griffin and Lauren Gordon teamed up for a block to tie things up at 4-4.
Breanna Trunk then took over in serve and the Hoboes scored three more quick points. The Tigers did come back to tie the set at 7-7, but from that point on the rest of the set belonged to Laurel Hill.
A pair of aces by Gordon and a kill by Bridget Zessin pushed the Hobo lead in the set to 11-7 as they pulled away for the win in the first set.
The second set went back and forth with neither team scoring more than two or three straight points. While it seemed the teams were doing nothing more than trading points Blountstown was slowly building a 16-12 lead.
A Griffin block sparked an 8-1 Hobo run. Kaylee L’Homme did her share in the run with a couple of kills for Laurel Hill.
The Hoboes were also able to take advantage of sloppy play by Blountstown during the run.
A kill by Gordon finished off the comeback in the set for Laurel Hill, which finished the set outscoring the Tigers 13-5 down the stretch.
The last three sets belonged to Blountstown as the Tigers fought back from the edge of defeat to win the match and advance to the region finals.
“Hats off to Blountstown,” Kent Zessin said. “They came in and didn’t get down when they lost the first two (sets). They were determined that they weren’t going to go down without a fight, and that’s what it was.”
Bridget Zessin topped the Hoboes with 12 kills. Gordon had 11 kills. Griffin had five kills and four blocks.
Morgan Meeks had 17 assists and Trunk added 10 assists.
Zessin said he reminded the Hoboes after the match that only the eight state champions will not end the season with a loss.
“You would like to be one of those eight that doesn’t lose their last one,” he said. “There is a point in time when that is going to happen. All you can do is prepare for each game and our girls did that.
“I really enjoyed coaching them this season and getting back into it with my daughter. We did accomplish several goals that we had set. Our seniors Lauren Gordon, Breanna Trunk and Jhanea Griffin are going to be greatly missed next year, but I’ve got pretty much nine returning players that can play.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.