Note: This sports recap appears in the Wednesday, Oct. 9 newspaper on Page B5.
McARTHUR — There’s something about playing Alexander that Vinton County’s Cameron Zinn seems to love so much.
In the Vikings’ first matchup against the Spartans, the sophomore setter notched her 1,000th career assist on the game-winner in the five-set victory.
On Tuesday in a rematch between the top teams in the TVC, Zinn’s big moment came at the serving line as she served up the game-winning ace that secured another five-set victory over the Spartans: 16-25, 25-15, 17-25, 25-22, 15-12.
The victory puts the Vikings ahead by two games in the conference with only three league games left in the season.
“It was a great feeling,” Zinn said of her game-winning ace. “Each girl has worked so hard traveling in the off-season and seeing it all pay off was awesome. The support of the community, student section, band and the youth teams made it an incredible atmosphere to play in.”
Despite being just a sophomore, there’s few hitters in all of Southern Ohio who are as automatic as Sydney Smith.
Anytime the ball is set to her, it can pretty much be chalked up as a kill. And she needed every kill possible on Tuesday.
Trailing 1-0 after Alexander won the opening set 25-16, the Vikings started out solid but the Spartans exploded on an 8-1 run to take an 11-7 lead.
The Vikings responded with an 8-1 run of their own behind Smith, Maylea Huff and Lacy Ward to take a 15-12 lead.
“Cameron (Zinn) is amazing and sets us all up perfectly to do what we need,” Huff said. “I remember watching her play in eighth grade and saying to myself ‘I can’t wait to play with her’. She’s put in a ton of work through playing club volleyball and she wants it. There’s nothing she can’t do on the court whether its kills, assists, digs, blocks, she does it all. She’s incredible.”
Later tied at 15, Smith took her game to another level and powered four kills alongside two more from Zoey Kiefer before Huff sealed the 10-0 run with an ace for the second set victory.
“I realized that we weren’t going to get anywhere by not having momentum,” Smith said. “I had to do my part and play really big. I felt the need to stand out on my team and be leader for this game. Whenever someone was down, I had to lift their spirits. We needed to keep our heads up so I did whatever the team needed me to do.”
Gut check time
That 10-0 run to end the second set seemed to have zapped all the energy from the Vikings as they dropped the third set in lackluster fashion.
Now it was time to see what the Vikings were truly made of in the fourth set.
“My message was simple; play together and have fun,” Vinton County coach Ashley Graves said. “Our biggest problem is that we tend to think too much, get down our ourselves and just go through the motions. We had to keep pushing but remember to have fun on the court as well.”
Needing to find that spark, Lacy Ward took it upon herself to keep the Vikings afloat with a trio of kills as part of an 8-7 Viking advantage.
Later tied at 14, Smith made her presence felt as she piled on three kills followed by an ace to cap a 6-1 Viking run for a 20-15 lead.
While Alexander answered back and tied the game at 20, Huff came through with a pair of kills that pushed the Vikings over the hump to force a fifth set.
“We heard through the grapevine that Alexander had been talking a little bit, but we wanted to do our talking on the court,” Huff said. “We went through the trenches and knew it was going to be tough because they were playing with some fire under them. But we needed to do it for ourselves and the community.”
Smith came out in the final set and scored the Vikings’ first six points with five kills and an ace for a 6-3 lead, forcing Alexander to call timeout to regroup.
“Sydney played incredible,” Zinn said of her fellow sophomore teammate. “All the hitters played great and really stepped up.”
Vinton County later went up 12-9, but the Spartans counter back and tied the game at 12.
However, the Vikings had one final push and nailed two more points before Zinn’s serve put the cherry on top for the win.
“To go from being 2-19 my freshman year to being 17-1 right now in my senior year, it’s pretty crazy to think about,” Huff said. “We’ve been here practicing on Saturdays and Sundays all summer for moments like this. I couldn’t be more proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished. But there’s still more games to go.”
Smith led the Vikings with a team-high 25 kills, six digs and four aces while Huff added 13 digs, 10 kills and three aces.
Zinn passed out 45 assists, had 19 digs and a pair of aces while Lacy Ward had 17 digs, nine kills and three aces.
Kerrigan Wards added a team-high 33 digs while Josie Hembree and Mika McFadden had 21 and 17 digs, respectively.
The Vikings roundout the regular season with games on Thursday at Meigs, Monday against South Webster, Tuesday at River Valley and Wednesday against Wellston.