Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
KINNIKINNICK — Coming into the year, Zane Trace was doubted.
The Pioneers, without a senior on their roster, were looked at as a team full of youth … meaning they’d most likely make young mistakes in big game situations, cracking under pressure.
However, coach Cyndi Davis’ crew didn’t get the memo … or they did and used it as bulletin board material. Either way, the Pioneers’ doubters have went silent and for good reason.
Thursday, after a four-set loss to Huntington two days earlier, Zane Trace (5-2, 3-1 SVC) bounced back with a convincing 25-9, 25-9, 25-18 sweep of conference foe Paint Valley.
“I think we have a good team. We gel really well together. These girls are together all the time off the court, so we do have that sense of team,” Davis said. “If these girls stay together and work as hard as they can, I really do believe they can beat anybody. If they continue to improve and they continue to work, I’m putting us at the top.”
That’s a notable statement, considering the league Zane Trace plays in. Huntington, Westfall, Unioto and Adena all pose a steep challenge while Paint Valley, Piketon and Southeastern have also shown the ability to beat any opponent at any given time.
But the Pioneers certainly have the tools to run the show. Outside hitters Alli Bennett and Hannah Hale swing hard, Emily Allen is a sophomore middle oozing with potential, freshmen Kinley May, Delaney Berry and Lexi Scott all have tons of upside, and junior leaders Elizabeth Harber, Laynee Hill and Lexi Betts are solid as a rock.
“I’m just feeling really good about my team this season,” Betts said. “At the start of the season, not everyone was expecting us to come out here and do what we’re doing because we had too many freshmen on our team. Our freshmen have stepped up into their roles. I’m just really happy for our team and our accomplishments.”
Thursday’s sweep was never really close.
In the first set, the Pioneers built a 12-3 lead and never looked back in a 25-9 win. The exact same thing happened in the second and, in the third, ZT took its first lead at 13-12 and used a 12-6 run to end the night.
Bennett led the way in the win with eight kills, eight digs and 17 assists while Hale had 11 kills and four digs. Hill finished with three kills and eight digs, Allen had six kills, Scott had six kills and Betts was 9-of-9 from the service line with two aces and seven digs.
Zane Trace now travels to Adena this coming Tuesday in a match near the top of the SVC standings. Meanwhile, Paint Valley (4-4, 1-3 SVC) hosts Western on Monday.
“We’ve got to eliminate our errors and let [the Warriors] score their own points,” Davis said. “The first set tonight, we scored seven of their nine points on silly errors. We have to clean that up. When you play Adena, you can’t have errors. So we’re going to work hard in that area.”