By ERIC BENAC
News Sports Writer
ST. IGNACE-The Onaway and Pellston volleyball teams have faced each other multiple times in past postseasons with Pellston coming out on top each time.
The Cardinals broke that streak on Tuesday.
Onaway topped the Hornets in a Class D regional semifinal in St. Ignace, beating the Hornets 3-1 by scores of 22-25, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-19.
Onaway head coach Steve Watson was proud of his girls, but focused on moving forward.
"We won the first round, but we're not there yet. We need to stay focused and realize this is one step closer to where we want to be: the state finals," he said.
Onaway will play Rudyard at 6:30 on Thursday in the regional final.
In spite of her team's loss, Pellston head coach Breanna Sisman was not disappointed with her girls.
"I'm very proud of how they played tonight. They played with so much heart and did everything I asked of them. Onaway's a great team and they played better than us tonight and I congratulate them for it," she said.
The strong play of both teams became apparent early. Pellston came out swinging and scored three of the first four points. However, Onaway came back quickly to tie the game at 4-4.
Pellston's Victoria Rybinski then began a huge serving streak with five points being scored. Onaway struggled against her heavy serves and couldn't get a solid volley together, falling behind 9-5.
Rybinski had nine kills and four aces on the night, including one during her scoring streak.
Pellston stayed in control of the game and pulled ahead 12-6 with strong serves from libero Dana Zulski and Mackenzie Wright.
Wright was an especially punishing offensive player with 16 kills and two aces on the night.
Onaway has never been a team to lie down and rallied back, a fact Watson commented on after the match.
"These girls are the best defensive team I've ever had because they'll do anything to keep the ball in play. They jump out of bounds on shot that should be gone and keep the ball alive," he said.
Solid defensive play kept Onaway in the game as it slowly closed the gap with scoring streaks from Megan Estep and Kallie Shimel to pull to within three points at 21-18.
Estep had four kills, 15 digs and 35 assists on the night while Shimel had six digs.
The Hornets' defensive play kept them ahead however and they won the first game 25-22.
The second game of the night was an important turning point for the match. Pellston started out strong, taking an early 6-2 lead. Onaway continued to counteract the Hornets offensive plays by playing solid defense to keep the game close.
Onaway began to make up points on Pellston again slowly but surely. The Cardinals were aided by strong serves and defensive play by Devin Bristley and an important scoring streak by Sarah Fullerton. It was during Fullerton's four-point scoring streak that Onaway pulled ahead 16-13.
Bristley had 11 kills and 16 digs on the night while Fullerton had eight kills, 12 digs and three blocks.
Onaway never lost the lead again, despite a brief rally from Pellston, which brought the score from 23-18 to 23-22. Onaway kept playing hard and scored the two points necessary to win 25-23.
The match momentum firmly swung towards Onaway by the third game as it took a 10-4 lead off the serves of Estep who continued to play excellent defense while Mariah Ehrke began knocking down spikes.
Ehrke ended the night with 13 kills, two aces and 32 digs.
Pellston kept fighting and brought the game to 10-9 thanks to strong play from Emma Hahn and Emma Dunham.
Hahn had 13 kills on the night while Dunham had three blocks.
The Hornets were unable to take the lead, although they continued to knock at the door. The Cardinals kept scoring and knocking back the ball defensively, which included big plays by Emily Estep and Lexi Szymoniak.
Emily Estep had 16 digs while Syzmoniak had 29 digs, two kills and two blocks.
Onaway kept momentum for the rest of the game and won 25-20 despite some strong offensive plays by Pellston's Tori Kirsh and Abbie Welch.
Kirsh had six kills and two blocks while Welch had 42 assists and two blocks.
The fourth game showed a confident Onaway team and an increasingly distraught Pellston team. Pellston continued to play well, but made uncharacteristic mistakes, drops and fouls that helped Onaway pull ahead 6-1 early. Meagan Self and Megan Estep led Onaway with strong offense.
Self had seven kills, three digs and four blocks on the night.
Pellston was unable to get together the kind of scoring streak that helped win them the first game. Onaway continually outscored them and went on to win the match with a 25-19 win.
This victory marked the first time Onaway had beaten Pellston in the postseason and gave them a 3-1 record against their rivals on the season.
Watson had nothing but praise for the Hornets after the match.
"They're an excellent team and they definitely knew what to expect from us. They did a great job slowing down Mariah Ehrke and adjusted to Megan Estep's setting strategy very well. Megan is great at setting the ball at odd times to keep the game off kilter," he said. "We adjusted to it, however and found a way to win by opening up big offensive plays with our defense, which is our hallmark."