Lindsey Stone to Jessica Walters. Natalie Lefler to Sarah Holgen. And now, Heidi Siebenlist to Sammi Gilbert? Maybe.
The setter (Siebenlist) and outside hitter (Gilbert) certainly looked like the latest in what has been a long line of killer combos in Ashland Tuesday. Siebenlist had 19 assists, most of them to the spring-loaded Gilbert, who finished with a team-high 10 kills and 13 digs in the Grizzlies' three-game dismantling of Crater at Mountain Avenue Gym.
The 25-11, 25-22, 25-14 Southern Sky Conference victory improved fifth-ranked Ashland to 14-8, including 5-0 in league matches. Crater, the only SSC team to take a game off Ashland this season, fell to 2-6 overall and 2-3 in league play.
"They're starting to learn each other and learn each other's pace," Ashland head coach Jodee Scott said of Ashland's one-two punch, "and I think Heidi is doing a good job of finding Sammi, especially when Sammi's on."
Which is often. Gilbert slammed home three spikes in a four-point span as the Grizzlies took a 6-1 lead to start Game 3, then added another gasp-inducing wallop to make it 14-8. The chemistry between setter and hitter was apparent on each; Siebenlist's quick, low offerings usually arrived just as Gilbert reached her apex. Spikes, then, were angled too sharp for the Comets to have a chance.
"It's something that we just started," Gilbert said. "We've realized that with the quicker sets the blockers on the other side of the net can't really get to them in time, so we have quicker action."
Added Scott: "(Gilbert) is one of those deceptive players. It doesn't look like she's going to hit it has hard as she does, but she gets up and she hits it hard."
After a dominating opening game, Ashland struggled to separate from the Comets in Game 2, falling behind 22-21 on Alana Harding's solo block. Ashland tied it on an Asia Kane kill down the line and took the lead for good on a gutsy effort by Elizabeth Westmoreland. The sophomore defensive specialist went to the floor to get under a vicious spike by Taylor Mackey and the dig somehow ended up falling untouched on Crater's side of the net.
A block by Niki Small and an ace by Kiley Pinder finished off the Comets and gave Ashland a two-games-to-none lead.
Kane finished with a match-high 18 digs and five kills and Small added eight kills, two blocks and two aces.
"They took a game from us (on Sept. 13) and we weren't going to let them do that again," Siebenlist said.
Ashland cruised through Game 1, taking leads of 5-1 and 19-6 en route to a rare 14-point winning margin. The Grizzlies pulled away by scoring eight straight points on Kane's serve. Gilbert finished three of those points with kills and Small added one of the hardest hits of the night.
"Heidi's running a great offense right now," Scott said of Siebenlist.
"She's mixing it up so that we get a lot of one-on-ones with the blockers and so our hitters are having a fun time hitting against one block instead of two blocks."
The win came three days after took second place in its own tournament, losing in the finals to third-ranked Summit after knocking off Marshfield, also ranked No. — at the time, in the semifinals.
"I think our confidence and our energy from last weekend carried over to today," Gilbert said.
Ashland gets another chance to see how it stacks up against the state's best Saturday at the Bend Clearwater Classic. The Grizzlies will be in the same pool as Jesuit, ranked No. — at the 6A level.
The OSAA Class 5A playoffs begin Oct. 31. Ashland's playoff-opener will be held Nov. — in Ashland.
"Each time we play, it's an opportunity to get better, and they feel that," Scott said. "Our goal is to peak at the end of the season. As long as we're taking steps toward that, I think we're right where we want to be."
Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.