Close-knit Rams topple Crestview

MINERAL RIDGE – Tiffany Hans and Jennifer Staunton are close.

“So close that we can finish each other’s sentences,” Hans said of their assistant coach-head coach relationship.

McKenzie Garland and Alyssa Harkins are close, too.

So close that they can recite their sentences at the same time.

“The ball can’t hit the floor without the body hitting the floor,” they said in unison after Mineral Ridge’s four-set win over Crestview on Thursday.

The Rams (15-4, 9-3 Inter Tri-County, Division II) have a knack for keeping plays alive and creating opportunities that, a split second earlier, look almost impossible.

“A lot of crazy things,” Hans said. “One arm here, diving into the bench there; a lot of skinned legs. They’re disciplined and work so hard

“Sometimes you can give up on a ball, but they don’t want to. That’s a point that you’ll lose.”

Hans was filling in for Staunton, the 26-year coaching veteran, who was absent from the match so she could take care of a family matter. The teams had games of 19-25, 25-15, 25-14 and 25-22.

“It was a little bit different not having coach Staunton,” Hans said. “But they came out, worked hard and this was for her. I’ve been working with her long enough to know the game plan. We’re all on the same wavelength and we transfer that over to the team.”

On Sept. 10, the Rams beat the Rebels in three sets.

“They’ve improved tremendously from the last time we played them,” Crestview coach Alicia Aver said. “They’re scrappy and kept keeping it alive and sending it over. It was a fun match to watch.”

Cassidy Ross, a junior and three-year varsity starter, had a game-high 17 kills and 10 blocks for the Rebels (12-6, 6-6).

“She’s very intense and aggressive,” Aver said.

Mineral Ridge was ready to answer her big plays.

“We have to be down and ready for the ball,” Garland said. “And we were.”

Garland had four blocks and Peyton Allen had 27 digs. In Game 2, the Rams had collected five straight points and closed it out with a series of Harkins kills. She had 10 kills and 11 service points.

“I try going to the line most of the time because it’s usually always open,” Harkins said. “I try to hit the line every time.”

Added Hans, “She’s finally getting a knack for finding the hole. She struggled a little early just hitting right into girls’ arms. When we needed her to pick up, she’s on a roll.”

In Game 3 and 4, the Rams had point streaks of seven and six, respectively.

“We’re working as a team now,” Harkins said. “It took some time, but we’re all on the same page and know what we’re going to do.”

Mineral Ridge faces Jackson-Milton and Lisbon to close out the season. If it wins out and South Range, which beat the Rams twice, loses one of its last two games, they will tie for the ITCL Division II regular season title.