Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
LOGAN — All good things, or runs, must come to an end.
After clinching its first district title since 2016 with a thrilling win over Westfall this past Saturday, Huntington’s season came to an end Thursday in a Division III regional semifinal at Logan High School.
The Huntsmen (18-8) fell to Berlin Hiland by a 25-12, 25-10, 25-17 final. But if you remember, they weren’t even supposed to be there in the first place.
“No one ever expected us to make it this far,” Huntington coach Tina Magill said. “We were picked to finish sixth in our conference. They didn’t think we could beat Zane Trace, Southeastern or Unioto, and they certainly didn’t think we were going to beat Westfall. So if you take where our expectations were and where we’re at now, I think our season was definitely successful.”
Thursday, simply put, the team’s inexperience in big-game situations may have finally came to a head.
“It was a new experience for them,” Magill said. “We had a couple of girls feeling rough coming in and I know there’s a lot of nerves coming into this game. But I thought we prepared them well. So I was expecting a little bit more. But each game, they didn’t give up and they played a little better. The girls told me they couldn’t even breathe until the third game.”
Hiland (26-1) jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first set with Madison Yoder at the service line. The Hawks built that lead to counts of 16-4 and 20-8 before polishing off a 25-12 win to take a one-set edge.
PHOTOS: Images from Huntington’s match with Hiland in a Division III regional semifinal
The second wasn’t much different as Hiland turned a 14-4 lead into a 25-10 win while taking advantage of every single Huntington miscue.
While the Huntsmen played better in the third, they still dug an early 10-7 hole. From there, Hiland took leads of 15-10 and 19-13 en route to a 25-17 win.
The loss forces Huntington to say goodbye to three seniors in Shope, Alyssa Steele and Emily Morris. While Shope has been on the varsity roster for the past four years and Steele ends her career with 1,000-plus assists, Morris hasn’t received much credit during her four-year tenure.
“Emily doesn’t get nearly as much credit as she deserves,” Magill said. “She’s that player that gets touches on almost every ball and she’s jumping the entire game. When it’s blocked, she’s the person that’s digging the balls that are going straight to the ground.”
Statistically, Megan Steele led Huntington with 10 kills and 11 digs while Allison Basye had seven kills and eight digs. Shope also chipped in defensively, recording seven digs.
The loss of the trio of seniors will certainly leave gaps to fill. But Huntington brings back plenty of talent next season. The group’s main focus is to get back to Logan and then into the Elite Eight.
“Next year will be a whole lot easier,” Magill said. “Every year, it does get easier. We have to fight through our league to get there, so we’re going to have the same obstacles during the regular season. But I really think their nerves will be a little bit more calm. If we can do what we did this year, there’s no reason we can’t be here next year as well.”