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Hurons win five-set thriller to advance to semifinals

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki The Rogers City volleyball team celebrates after scoring the final point in the fifth set to defeat Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart in a quarterfinal game on Tuesday at Gaylord High School.

GAYLORD–Next stop, Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

For the second year in a row, the Rogers City volleyball team will head down to the Class D semifinals.

The Hurons knocked off tenth-ranked Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart Academy Irish in five sets in Tuesday’s quarterfinal match at Gaylord High School, 25-22, 27-25, 20-25, 22-25 and 16-14.

“We’re really excited about getting back to Battle Creek. Being there last year made us hungry for it again this year and you know what it’s all about, the excitement down there and we just wanted to get back there,” Rogers City head coach Jackie Quaine said. “Every time you continue to climb up the ladder here in tournament play it’s only going to get tougher and we are expecting a heck of a match on Thursday.”

Rogers City advances to the second of two semifinals on Thursday where it will play No. 1 ranked Plymouth Christian at 2 p.m.

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Rogers City's Taylor Fleming (4) spikes a ball past Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart defender Allison Hauck (5) during the first set.

Tuesday’s match looked as if it was going to be a three-game sweep with little drama for the Hurons after they took the first two sets, but the rest of the night proved to be tough as Sacred Heart stormed back to win the third and forth sets to send the match to a thrilling final set.

Rogers City opened up a 3-0 lead to start the final set, but like it did much of the night, Sacred Heart battled back and would not go away as it cut the lead to 5-4, before the Hurons answered with three straight points to take an 8-4 lead and forced an Irish timeout.

Rogers City scored three of the next four points to take its largest lead of the set at 11-5 and forced another Sacred Heart timeout.

This time the Irish responded and stormed back, scoring four straight points to cut the lead to two and forced Rogers City to use a timeout.

Sacred Heart cut the lead to one out of the timeout before the Hurons scored two unanswered points to grab a 13-10 lead.

The Irish continued to battle and scored two consecutive points to cut the lead he lead to 13-12 and force another Rogers City timeout.

“We really had to work around Sacred Heart’s blocking tonight and I told the girls during the last timeout that we just needed to get the ball back with a chance to serve,” Quaine said. “They were ranked number 10 in the state for a reason. They had some tall girls who could really put it down and we had to make adjustments throughout the night.”

The Hurons scored out of the timeout to come within one point of finishing the match, but Sacred Heart kept its hopes alive with two straight points before Rogers City scored the final two points of the match and Taylor Fleming spiked a ball off an Irish defender that deflected out of bounds to send an emotional Hurons team into a frenzy.

Rogers City started slow in the opening set before finding its rhythm and using several big runs in the first set to take an early lead in the match.

The Hurons were able to build off of their momentum and started the second set scoring six of the first eight points, but Sacred Heart found ways throughout the night to keep things close. 

The second set was a back-and-forth battle that Rogers City eventually won that looked like it may have deflated the Irish.

Sacred Heart fought back and went on a 13-1 run midway through the third set that propelled it to victory to stay alive in the match.

The Irish opened up a big lead in the fourth set, but saw their lead slip away as Rogers City battled back, but couldn’t take the lead at any point in the set as Sacred Heart forced the pivotal fifth set.

The Hurons were led by Taylor Fleming who had 25 kills, 22 digs, four blocks and two aces, Kayla Rabeau ended the night with 27 digs, 25 kills and two aces. Kristin Brege dished out 53 assists and had 15 digs. Jayna Hance added 31 digs and Mandy Hincka chipped in with seven assists.

Even with another challenge ahead, Quaine believes her team well prepared for Thursday’s semifinal.

“Playing ranked teams is nothing new for us this postseason, but it’s all or nothing for us now,” Quaine said. “We just need to take everything we have out there on the court. It would be nice to get to the finals, but we have another tough challenge ahead and have to get through the semifinals first.”

Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at jzawacki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690.