Hurons beat Onaway to win third straight district

News Photo by James Andersen Members of the Rogers City volleyball team pose with fans after defeating Onaway to win a Class D district title on Thursday at Rogers City High School.

ROGERS CITY–In crunch time, teams often look to their best players to come through.

Taylor Fleming did just that for the Rogers City volleyball team on Thursday.

Fleming recorded 22 kills, two blocks, three aces and 13 digs, doing a little bit of everything to help the Hurons defeat Onaway in a Class D district final at Rogers City High School to win their third consecutive district title.

Rogers City won 19-25, 25-18, 27-25 and 25-10.

The win moves the Hurons to a regional semifinal match with Leland at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Bellaire.

After Kayla Rabeau came through for the Hurons on Tuesday, Fleming took center stage in the final, slamming down shots with authority and working to stifle the Cardinals on the defensive end. In the last set alone, Fleming had several stretches where she put together stellar individual stretches to keep the Hurons ahead.

“Taylor just gets more confident as the game goes which is what you need when you get (to) crunch time,” Rogers City coach Jackie Quaine said. “I need somebody like her coming in and upping her game another notch and that’s what she did tonight. She owned that net.”

In a battle of two of Class D’s top teams–Onaway was No. 5 and Rogers City was No. 8–the Hurons came out on top, rallying to win the last three sets in a match that saw athleticism and solid play on both sides.

“This is where it’s at. When you’ve got No. 5 going against No. 8 you know it’s going to be a good match,” Quaine said.

After both teams took one set each, Rogers City took momentum back with a late victory in set three. A tip from Fleming tied the set at 24 and on the next serve, Onaway scored a point after the Hurons’ serve went into the net.

Onaway’s lead was short-lived however as it served into the net to tie the set again. Fleming got a shot past two blockers for the 26th point and Krysten Altman served an ace to end the set.

The two point swing proved to be enough to carry the Hurons the rest of the way. Fleming had two kills and a push to help spot the Hurons a 5-1 lead early in the fourth set, which eventually grew to a 13-4 lead as Onaway struggled to rally back. After Onaway scored late to make it 18-10, Rogers City scored the final seven points to win the set and the match.

“You can’t write it any better for us to walk out of that set (the third one) with a win when I call a timeout and they miss the serve. That’s inexcusable and I’m sure Jackie would agree, you can’t miss that serve. We have to find a way to turn around and win that,” Onaway coach Steve Watson said. “I’ve been on the other side of that too where you win one of those and you still come out and turn around and lose one anyhow. We win that one, it doesn’t mean we’re going to win the match, but it means at worst we’re going five sets.”

Rabeau added 16 kills and 14 digs for Rogers City and Kristin Brege had 33 assists and 13 digs; Maddie Hincka had six assists and three kills, Catheryn Hart had two kills, Jayna Hance had 19 digs and Hannah Fleming had 14 digs.

Onaway caught Rogers City by surprise in the opening set, starting on a 9-4 run as the Hurons gave away several points on attacking errors. Even with Fleming and Rabeau scoring points up front, the Cardinals held their own and were able to block many of Rogers City’s attacks throughout the match.

The Hurons eventually fought back to within a few points of the lead, but the Cardinals never trailed. A kill from Maddie McLean and a pair of attacking errors gave the Cardinals a 21-19 lead late and Onaway hung on to win the first set.

It was a good start for the Cardinals, but one they couldn’t replicate in the second set as they struggled with ball control.

“As the match wore on, in general, our ball control it was diminishing a little bit. We weren’t serving quite as well as we had. It wasn’t maybe noticeable to the naked eye, to the average person, but we weren’t serving quite as well and we weren’t serve receiving as well,” Watson said. “Little things here and there just built up a little bit and it might be a point here or two points later, but it wasn’t as crisp.”

Rogers City led 8-4 early and withstood a brief comeback from the Cardinals before pulling away. Onaway made it 17-15 late in the match, but a serving error gave Rogers City the ball back and Onaway scored just three points the rest of the way.

McLean led Onaway with 19 kills and 16 digs and Jaclyn Nash had five kills, 20 assists and 19 digs. Calley Selke added four kills and 25 digs and Kennedy Crawford chipped in with three kills and six digs. KayAnna Dean had five assists and 12 digs and Mallorie Neelis had four digs.

Onaway started out strong in the third set as McLean led the Cardinals to a 7-2 lead. Fleming and Rabeau helped Rogers City rally back and both teams fought back-and-forth for every point the rest of the way, making countless heads-up defensive plays to set up offensive chances.

A kill from McLean and another point off a deflection gave Onaway a 19-15 lead later in the set, but a hit from Fleming and a kill from Rabeau cut the lead to two. Onaway pulled ahead 23-19 later, but the Hurons kept fighting and closed the gap to 23-22. A hit out of bounds made it 24-22 and put Onaway on the verge of the win before Fleming responded with a kill and a tip to knot the set.

With Leland looming, Quaine knows the Hurons are in for a challenge, but she continues to be encouraged by Rogers City’s tenacity and improvement as the season continues.

“I’m so happy,” Quaine said. “We are growing so much from the beginning of the season. I just wasn’t sure how it was going to come together. These girls have kept on and no one’s quitting.”

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.