This season has been a fun one for Onaway volleyball coach Steve Watson.
His team began the season ranked in the top 10 of the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association Class D poll and so far the Cardinals have more than lived up to the high expectations that come with being ranked.
"It's been great because we set goals up and we set a standard to reach and we reached it," Watson said.
News File Photo
Onaway’s Devin Bristley hits the ball over the net during a match against Cedarville at Onaway High School.
Onaway is currently 43-4-3 and ranked fifth in Class D after finishing with a perfect 14-0 record in Ski Valley Conference play and adding another Presque Isle County Championship to its resume.
As district play opens tonight for volleyball teams around the state, the Cardinals are hoping that the high standard of excellence they've played with all season will result in a second straight district title.
In a Class D district in Posen, Onaway will play the winner of tonight's Rogers City/Hillman match on Wednesday.
Volleyball district schedule
Rogers City vs. Hillman, 7 p.m. today
Atlanta vs. Posen, 6 p.m., Wednesday
Rogers City/Hillman winner vs. Onaway, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Championship, 7 p.m. Friday
Traverse City Central vs. Marquette, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday
Traverse City West vs. Alpena, 6 p.m. Tuesday
Petoskey vs. Gaylord, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Petoskey/Gaylord winner vs. Sault, 11 a.m. Saturday
Traverse City West/Alpena winner vs. Traverse City
Central/Marquette winner, 1 p.m. Saturday
Championship, 3 p.m. Saturday
Whittemore-Prescott vs. Johannesburg-Lewiston, 6 p.m. today
Oscoda vs. Alcona, 6 p.m. Thursday
Tawas vs. Whittemore-Prescott/Johannesburg-Lewiston, 7:30 p.m. Thursdsay
Championship, 7 p.m. Friday
At Au Gres
Au Gres vs. Fairview, 6 p.m. Thursday
Hale vs. Mio, 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Championship, 6 p.m. Friday
With a number of experienced players, Onaway has won with a fast-paced precision game that's often caught its opponents off guard. Watson said his team feeds off the pressure that comes with so much recognition.
"When people decide who's ranked or who the favorites are, that doesn't bother us. We'll take those rankings because we like to take on that pressure because it means you've got to play to a new level," Watson said. You're not going to beat a team like Rogers City unless you're playing at a high level and we have to play that way every time we step on the court."
Onaway won the district last year over Rogers City before losing to Pellston 3-0 in the regional semifinal. The Cardinals have already beaten Pellston once this season and could have another matchup with the Hornets in this year's regional semifinal if both teams advance that far.
Watson isn't looking past Rogers City or Hillman however, especially after the Hurons went toe-to-toe with Onaway on Wednesday.
"Whether it's Rogers City or Hillman, our girls are committed and focused on winning that first match and they're going to have to play well to do it," Watson said.
Like Onaway, Mio will also look to advance to another regional semifinal. The Thunderbolts advanced to the regional final in 2010 and the regional semifinal last season. This season, with several returning veterans like libero Nona Rhoads, the Thunderbolts went undefeated in North Star League play this season and should be favorites to win their district which begins Thursday in Au Gres.
In Alcona, Whittemore-Prescott will play Johannesburg-Lewiston tonight. The winner will face Tawas on Wednesday and Alcona will play Oscoda.
In Gaylord, Alpena will play Traverse City West on Tuesday with the winner advancing to play either Traverse City Central or Marquette on Saturday. Petoskey and Gaylord will play Tuesday with the winner facing Sault Ste. Marie.