Versatility pays off for Black, Hilltoppers teammates
DANVILLE — Ella Black is a one-of-a-kind volleyball player for Schlarman. She is the Hilltoppers' lone senior.
Black may have the seniority, but she hasn't cornered the market on talent.
On a Schlarman squad with multiple strong, quick and agile players, Black fits right in. She was one of three Hilltoppers with at least six kills Thursday as Schlarman dispatched Chrisman 25-14, 25-16 in a Vermilion Valley Conference match at Shebby Gym.
"She sets an excellent example for all of the other girls," Schlarman coach Heidi Crane said. "It's great having her leadership.
"At one point, we pondered using her at libero, but we didn't want to take her out of hitting."
Schlarman had three players with at least five assists against the Cardinals. On several occasions, two setters were used during the playing of one point.
"All of us have strong points, but we're definitely very versatile," Black said. "We can all get the ball down or get it to someone else."
Despite a starting lineup featuring two freshmen and two sophomores, Schlarman has a 9-1 record with eight two-set sweeps. Black never considered this to be a rebuilding season.
"We have it this year," she said. "We're strong and play great team ball."
Most of Crane's job is done during practice. Once the matches begin, she said, "we enjoy watching them. Maybe we refocus them once in a while, but we put it on the girls to think out there. We're trying to get them to realize what is going on."
Jordan Marganski had 10 kills and 10 assists for the Hilltoppers. Laura Gross finished with 14 digs, eight kills and seven assists. Black had 12 digs and six kills. All three have club volleyball experience.
Crane said it would be impossible to pick a most improved player from last year's 18-12-1 team that graduated two seniors.
"There has been such growth across the board," she said. "Each one has improved greatly."
Freshman Sierra Bell made her starting debut Thursday for Schlarman at libero and registered 10 digs.
Chrisman (10-7) wasn't giving away points. Schlarman put down 15 kills in each set.
"We played pretty well," Chrisman coach Kelly Hilligoss said. "The score doesn't reveal that, but it was one of our better times working together. The effort was there."
Brett Bishop and Dana Mitchell had three kills apiece for Chrisman. Abby Bush had two first-set blocks, and Hilligoss said the freshman "fears nothing. She had a couple big blocks that made a statement and said, 'You're going to have to do something other than hit at me.' "
Schlarman's digs leaders were Janelle Marion with 18 and Shelby Mascari with 17.
Marganski had three blocks.