In familiar territory

Hurons one step away from getting back to semifinals

News File Photo Rogers City senior Kayla Rabeau (14) hits a ball past Leland defenders Allie Martin (7) and Maddy Grosvenor during a Class D regional semifinal match in Bellaire.

After experiencing the thrill of making the Class D semifinals for the first time in school history a year ago, the Rogers City volleyball team entered the 2017 season with the goal of getting back to Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek and had the roster to do it with several key returning players.

It has been a roller coaster ride of a season for the Hurons as they made adjustments early in the year in preparation for the end of the season with the hopes of making another successful postseason run.

They’ll get a chance to punch a return ticket to Battle Creek tonight as they play at 7 p.m. in a Class D quarterfinal against Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in Gaylord.

“Any time you get this far into the tournament, you have to be ready for a battle because no one wants to go home and our girls are fired up,” Rogers City head coach Jackie Quaine said. “It hasn’t been an easy road for us and our competition has been great. We know Sacred Heart is good and we’ve worked hard and built a lot of momentum with some of our big wins lately.”

The Hurons have been tested repeatedly and have been up to every challenge this postseason, which includes wins over No. 5 Onaway and No. 2 Leland.

They’ll face another ranked opponent in No. 10 Sacred Heart and are happy to be playing a little closer to home in Gaylord in a match that was originally scheduled to be played in Buckley.

“The switch is so much better for not only us, but our fans as well. This makes the trip much shorter for us and we’re happy the location eventually got changed, but our girls remain focused and confident,” Quaine said. “It helps to have veteran players on our team and we’ve been communicating well and just peaked at the right time. We are elated with how everything is working.”

The Irish (42-9-5) have six upperclassmen on the roster, four of which are seniors that lead the way. Like the Hurons, Sacred Heart has big hitters up front. Both Sophie Ruggles and Michele Hubbard will be key for Sacred Heart’s success, along with the play of Grace Reetz, Erikah Cudjoe and Maggie Yonker. The Irish earned a 3-2 victory over Muskegon Catholic Central in the regional finals to advance to tonights quarterfinal game.

Rogers City is loaded with talented upperclassmen of its own, many of whom were playing for a chance to go to the semifinals last year.

The Hurons are led by their two attackers in senior Kayla Rabeau and junior Taylor Fleming. This postseason, the two have gave opposing teams fit in trying to find ways to defend them. Fleming combined for 46 kills, 37 digs and 11 aces in the regional semifinals and championship game. Rabeau added a combined 38 kills and 30 digs in the two games to help Rogers City keep its season alive.

As important as the two attackers are, the Hurons have relied heavily on freshman setter Kristin Brege who joined the team midway through the year and has played a key role in helping the Hurons click at the right time. Brege dished out 37 assists in the semifinal game against Leland and had 32 more in the title game.

Junior Jayna Hance has continued her steady play as the team’s libero. Hance combined for 38 digs in the two regional games.

Along with Fleming and Rabeau, senior Hannah Fleming and junior Catheryn Hart provide solid depth at the net and have been important pieces for the Hurons along with the play of junior Shawna McDonald and sophomore Kyrsten Altman, who give Rogers City more than enough options throughout their entire roster.

All of the decisions and adjustments the Hurons made have prepared them for the most important time of the year and have given Rogers City another opportunity to travel downstate as they once again have caught fire at the perfect time.

“We have a lot of depth this year which is so important because so many of our other pieces on the roster continue to step up and we’ve all come together,” Quaine said. “If we play our game and keep doing what we do, I think we have a good chance tonight.”

The winner of tonight’s quarterfinal match will advance to the semifinals at Kellogg Arena on Thursday at 2 p.m. where it will play the winner of tonight’s matchup between Battle Creek St. Philip and No. 1 ranked Plymouth Christian.