By ERIC BENAC
News Sports Writer
POSEN-A Class D district volleyball championship quickly turned into a fight to see if anybody could beat back a streamrolling Onaway team.
News Photo by Eric Benac
The Onaway Cardinals volleyball team poses with its Class D district trophy after sweeping Posen in a district championship match on Thursday at Posen High School. The Cardinals play in the regional semifinal on Tuesday in Saint Ignace.
While not unbeatable, the Cardinals have had a excellent season and have fought their way to a fourth place standing in the state. Posen lined up to play spoiler to Onaway on Thursday, hoping to take their place in the regionals.
And although the Vikings played bravely and had intermittently excellent play throughout the match, they were unable to stop the Cardinals and were swept in three games on Thursday, 25-9, 25-15 and 25-17.
Onaway moves on to regionals on Tuesday against the winner of the Alanson district.
Onaway's head coach Steve Watson was very proud of his team and optimistic about its chances in the regionals.
"We set our goals at getting beyond districts this year and although that has a chance to set you up for disappointment we really pulled through. We have some excellent, talented girls on this team and they're excited at the chance to possibly play Pellston in regionals," he said.
In spite of the tough loss, Posen head coach Erin Riopelle expected nothing less from her team than the focused, determined and brave play they put forth on Thursday.
"I told them to come in and play in a way that they could leave proud, regardless of the outcome," she said.
Onaway dominated the beginning of the first game quickly, pulling ahead 7-2 off of the serves of Devin Bristley and Megan Estep.
The Posen girls struggled at first to adjust to the strong serves of these two players. Bristley had five kills and nine digs on the night as well an an MHSAA record of 11 aces. Estep had 24 assists and three digs.
The next Onaway server Sara Fullerton then served for 13 straight points which brought the game to 20-2. Fullerton had a big night with seven aces and two kills.
Posen began a nice scoring streak off the serves of Kayla Lenard and Ashley Meyers that helped bring the score up to 24-9. However, it was too little too late as Onaway won the next point to win, 25-9.
Lenard had one ace on the night while Meyers had one big block.
The second game was very similar to the first but Posen began to volley much better against Onaway's offense. Korynn Hincka knocked down some big shots and kept her hands in the air against Onaway as much as possible on defense.
She had six kills and a block on the night.
Ataman also created some offensive chances for the Posen team, keeping many plays active with quick, smart play. Atman had one block.
Anna Couture was also big, knocking some balls back into play to keep the game alive. Couture had two aces to go with her strong defensive play but Onaway quickly pulled ahead 10-3 off a eight point serving streak by Bristley.
A few back and forth scores later, Rachel Nave of Onaway started a six point scoring streak that helped Onaway pull ahead 18-5. The Cardinals continued to counter Posen's play with strong offensive and defensive maneuvers.
Posen started fighting back and at 23-11, Couture began a four-point serving streak that helped bring the game to 23-14. While Posen continued to play strong, Onaway eventually won the game 25-15.
The third game saw some of the best play by Posen as well as some of the best play by Onaway. It featured neck-and-neck play and a decrease in sustained scoring drives by Onaway. Posen took the lead at 4-3 and held on to it until 6-6 when Bristley came up to serve again.
Bristley once again proved to be a dominant server as her team scored eight straight points to go ahead 13-6. Some of these points came off the kills of Lexi Szymoniak, Megan Self and Mariah Ehrke.
Ehrke had 11 kills and eight aces while Szymoniak had four kills and two digs and Self had two kills and an ace.
Onaway's defense was also impressively consistent on the night, rarely letting a ball go flying wildly out of bounds. Emily Estep had eight digs, Rachel Nave had five, Elise Arkwood had two while Kali Shimel had three.
Posen began to rally with the serves of Monica Bartz and the defensive play of Ataman keeping them in the game. Hincka knocked down big spikes that powered past the Onaway defenders to help stay within four points at 16-12.
This kind of sustained play on both sides resulted in excellent volleys that showed off some of the best volleyball of the year for both teams. Onaway continued to win more points, but Posen didn't let them wrack up huge scoring streaks. Onaway ended up winning 25-17 in the closest game of the match.
Other Posen stats included an ace by Austin Sharpe and a kill by Mercedes Kowalski.
Although it isn't a sure thing that Onaway will play Pellston, the team is very excited about the chance. They have a mixed record with Pellston and could face them again if the Hornets win their district.
"We beat Pellston two times this year, but we've never beaten them in the regionals after facing them three times. If we play them in Saint Ignace, it'll definitely be an interesting game. I think these girls have a real chance," he said.