High School Sports

Hilton Head High takes down rival Bluffton for 2nd region volleyball title in 3 seasons

Melissa Damas admitted she and her teammates might have had their eyes on what laid ahead. And it would be tough to blame them.

With a region title match against its rival on the back end of Thursday night's schedule, Hilton Head High was caught off guard in the opener of its tri-match. The opponent, Hilton Head Prep, took advantage by snatching the first game of the best-of-three match before the Seahawks found a way to claw back and pull out a victory.

As it turned out, the wake-up call was exactly what the Seahawks needed to prepare for a battle against Bluffton High School.

"I think that comeback really got us hyped for the second match (against Bluffton)," Damas said. "We were ready to go after that."

It appeared that way.

Hilton Head High made the night a perfect sweep by disposing of the Bobcats in straight games (25-20, 25-16) to clinch the Region 7-AAA title on a night in which the three teams -- along with the fans -- decorated themselves in pink to support breast cancer awareness.

Coupled with the three-set win against Hilton Head Prep (21-25, 25-20, 26-24), the Seahawks moved to 20-3 on the year and can finish off the region season undefeated with a tri-match sweep at Lake Marion on Tuesday.

Bluffton defeated the Dolphins 29-27, 25-11 to open the night. But the Bobcats' night quickly turned sour when they took the court against Hilton Head High.

Whereas the Seahawks needed three games to defeat their rivals on Sept. 30, they had much fewer problems Thursday. They used 8-0 runs in each game to separate themselves from the Bobcats, whose biggest lead in either game was 3-1.

"They played better than we did," Bobcats coach Al Stern said. "There's nothing else to say. They were the better team."

The Seahawks keyed in on that word -- team -- during the match. Rather than relying on Judy Slow to provide all the power, Hilton Head High found a way to get its other players involved.

Slow still paced the team with eight kills in the match, but Elaine Natoli and Margo Dill each added four apiece, and Damas and Katie Parent also had kills.

"Our offense is amazing when everyone is on," said Damas, who was named the Region 7-AAA Player of the Year this week. "Margo was on, Elaine was on, and when they get going, that makes our offense awesome."

Bluffton couldn't find the same sort of rhythm.

The Bobcats found a much-needed second option with Lisa Glover, who recorded five kills. But the Seahawks found a way to slow down Bluffton's primary option -- Mackenzie Cooler. The Bobcats freshman was a force in the two teams' first meeting on Sept. 30 with 12 kills, but she managed just four Thursday night.

"We changed up our defense a little bit and swung one girl to take away their tips, and we tried to put more angles on their hitters," Seahawks coach Garret Talarczyk said. "And then we gave Maraia Tremarelli bigger square footage to cover, because she's our star on defense. If that was what worked, I don't know, but the girls responded to it."

Hilton Head Prep finished without a match victory, but the Dolphins were competitive in four of the five games Thursday night. They even earned a match point opportunity against the Seahawks but lost four consecutive points to lose the match.

Liz Buterbaugh accounted for 17 kills during the two matches, and Christine Quinn added 14. Mackenzie Brown had 38 assists.

"We have to figure out how to win," Prep coach Reed Goldsmith said. "We've come a long way. For us as a small school to play with these schools, it's great. I'm proud of the girls. But in the end, we needed to figure out a way to win."