HIGHLAND — Addison Rode is making the most of the belated girls volleyball season.
With four senior hitters to feed, the junior setter couldn’t wait to run Highland's offense.
“This is like the year that I feel like I really wanted to just take advantage of,” Rode said. “It's a huge opportunity for me just having four seniors that can really put the ball away and make me look better as a setter.”
Rode didn’t need much help looking her best in helping guide Highland to a 25-14, 25-19 sweep of visiting Waterloo in a Mississippi Valley Conference match Thursday.
Rode spread the ball to her four seniors — Bella LaPorta, Olivia Wilke, AnneMarie Beckemeyer and Taylor Kesner — who also are making the most out of their final few weeks on the Highland court.
“There was a chance that we weren't even going to be able to have a season,” said LaPorta, who has signed to play for William Jewell. “So once we learned that we were going to have one, we just decided that we were going to go out with a bang and leave it on the floor every time.”
Kesner had seven kills, LaPorta had six spikes to go along with a block and an ace, Wilke had six kills and Beckemeyer put down five kills with three blocks and a pair of aces for Highland (7-0 overall, 5-0 conference).
Rode had 25 assists.
“We are a very well-rounded team,” Highland coach Katelyn Hagarty said. “We have so many different weapons and different options in the front row. Especially defense does a phenomenal job getting the balls up to our setter and she does a great job mixing it up.”
Highland took control of the opening set behind Beckemeyer’s serve. Beckemeyer put down an ace, sparking a 9-0 run, and her aggressive serving kept Waterloo off balance setting up multiple kills from Kesner and Wilke as Highland took a 10-4 lead.
“I've worked really hard on my jump serve,” Beckemeyer said. “It was kind of hard to get it to the point where it goes over and in every time.”
A block from Beckemeyer and a pair of LaPorta kills extended the advantage to 19-8 and a Wilke spike eventually clinched the first set for Highland.
Rode established the middle with Beckemeyer and junior Reese Bolen early on. That opened the outside for Kesner, LaPorta and Wilke to do their damage.
“Addy does a great job with that and we know that every single girl on this team can pound it, so it makes it a lot of fun,” LaPorta said.
Waterloo (2-4, 2-3) hung tough in the second set behind four kills from Hailey Montgomery, who finished with seven spikes total.
But Beckemeyer came up with a pair of kills and a block to give Highland a 21-19 lead.
“Every set that was that went up, I was just ready for it to be put down,” Beckemeyer said.
A Wilke kill and a LaPorta ace gave Highland match point and a Waterloo hitting error ended the match.
Highland’s defense was strong all match long as was its passing.
“The serve receive is great,” Rode said. “I don't even have to work half the time because their passes are right to me.”
Highland isn’t satisfied with an undefeated start. This senior group wants to leave a lasting impression.
“These seniors, they are a very special group,” Hagarty said. “They are close knit, they are competitors. I am so happy that they're able to have a season, even if it is shortened, and they're ready to go out and make a statement.”