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LINCOLN-The Alcona volleyball team saved one of its best performances of the season for the right time.
Despite some neck-and-neck play with Oscoda, the Tigers played a solid match on the way to sweeping the Owls 26-24, 25-22 and 25-15 in a Class C district semifinal Thursday at Alcona High School.
The win puts the Tigers in tonight's final against Johannesburg-Lewiston at 7 p.m. after the Cardinals defeated Tawas.
Alcona volleyball coach Kristi Arnold was very happy with her team's performance, especially at such a crucial time in the season.
"I'm thrilled with the performance. I told them to go out there and give it their all and they absolutely did so and took care of it three sets," Arnold said. "I couldn't put it into words how well they played tonight. They played better than they have all season."
The first game saw a lot of back-and-forth play and neither team led by more than five points. Alcona rallied from an early 9-4 deficit and eventually tied the game at 11. Back-and- fourth play continued into the two sides tied again at 20 points each. Out of the tie, Alcona scored the next four points, thanks to a tip from Nikki Smith and a kill from Karina Cole among the points.
Oscoda answered back with four points of its own behind the serving of Brittany Keathley. Keathley's first serve was an ace, the second caught Alcona out of position and the third hit the ceiling, resulting in a 24-24 tie.
Cole put Alcona out front again with a kill and Carly Mitchell blocked an attack to give Alcona the win.
Cole served as the catalyst for Alcona's offense all night and got the Tigers going in the second game with a pair of kills and a tip early on.
Cole led Alcona with 14 kills, Tori Keerl had four aces and Sam Zerbst had seven digs.
Arnold praised Cole's play and said the Tigers did a good job positioning themselves where they needed to be.
"We've been working all week on places we need to go on the floor to win this game and she (Cole) definitely took advantage of it today," Arnold said.
After the two teams tied at seven, Alcona broke the tie with a four-point run and never relinquished the lead. The Owls struggled in several aspects of the game, coming up with short serves and short hits that gave Alcona easy points.
Oscoda rallied late with two four-point stretches to cut Alcona's lead to one, 21-20. The Tigers pulled ahead again 23-20, but Oscoda pulled to within one again before a tip and an ace from Smith ended the game in Alcona's favor.
The third game was Alcona's strongest of the night as the Tigers pulled out of a 6-6 tie and proved to be the stronger team the rest of the way. Oscoda put together a late five-point-stretch, but Alcona responded by ending the match on a 7-1 run that included kills from Smith and Keerl.
Along with a strong offensive performance, Arnold was also pleased with the Tigers' improved play on defense.
"They've become much more confident at finding holes on the floor and being able to read the court better as well as the opponents' hitters," Arnold said. Defensively, they're doing a much better job covering their positions on the floor.
With a short turnaround time for the final, Arnold hopes that the Tigers come out with same effort she saw on Thursday.
"Hopefully we just come back with the same amount of energy. We saw JoBurg a few weeks ago, so we'll watch them and talk about a few things."