High School Sports

Bluffton cruises past Crestwood in volleyball playoff opener

Bluffton didn't have any trouble with Crestwood in the opening round of the Class 3-A state volleyball playoffs on Tuesday night, cruising to a 25-13, 25-8, 25-9 victory.

Bobcats head coach Al Stern wasn't terribly pleased with the outcome, though.

"We should have played sharper," Stern said. "We didn't look like we had the energy. Some of the girls looked like they knew we were going to win, and it was like, 'I'll do what I have to do and no more.' We played OK, we won and that's good. But we need to pick it up from now on."

Stern's sense of urgency comes from the next opponent on the schedule -- 27-2 North Myrtle Beach in the second round.

"We know we're going to have to play a whole lot better," Stern said.

It's not that the Bobcats played poorly.

Kellie Cooper was 14 of 14 serving with four kills, Lisa Glover had seven kills and freshman Mackenzie Cooler provided 16 assists and three kills.

Jamie Toomer, Jordan Franklin, Morgan Delaplane and Shalyn Houghlan also shined at times as Bluffton, the No. 2 seed out of Region 7-AAA, jumped out to commanding 8-1 leads in both the first and second games.

Unforced errors kept Bluffton from finishing either game strong, although the end result was never in doubt.

"It's mostly communication," Cooler said.

The Bobcats also struggled at the start of the third game, falling behind 4-1 before Cooper sparked a 14-0 Bluffton rally. Cooper is one of a few key players who returned from the team that reached the state championship match last year.

"Last year's team wanted it more, mentally," Cooper said. "This year, I feel we're more powerful, physically."

For Crestwood (6-8), the No. 3 seed out of Region 6-AAA, Jessica Skinner led the way with two aces, one kill and three blocks.

"We've had stretches this season where we've been able to put together several good sets in a match," Crestwood coach Jarrod Dubose-Schmitt said. "We've had other times where it looks like we've never been on the court together. Tonight, it was kind of a hodgepodge."

Bluffton (34-18) now sets its sights on Thursday's 6 p.m. match at North Myrtle Beach.

"I think we're in good shape, even though we weren't that sharp tonight," Stern said. "It's hard to measure against a team that's not that competitive. It's almost easier to play a really good team to see how good you are."

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