Rising to the challenge

Hurons top Leland in regional semifinal thriller

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Rogers City's Taylor Fleming (4) spikes a ball past Leland defender Maddy Grosvenor (6) during the second set of a regional semifinal volleyball match on Tuesday at Bellaire High School.

BELLAIRE –A volleyball match between two teams that reached the state semifinals a year ago definitely lived up to the hype.

Both Rogers City and Leland clashed in a regional semifinal match at Bellaire High School on Tuesday and in the end, it was the Hurons that came away with a monumental victory in a match that went the distance, 25-23, 21-25, 25-17, 23-25 and 15-12.

“This has the feeling of a state final game. It was a match between two great teams and our girls just kept going all night,” Rogers City coach Jackie Quaine said. “There wasn’t much letting up tonight and all of our girls were ready to go. We did a good job making Leland work and nothing came easy for (us) tonight. We earned everything and I could not be more proud of these girls. We just continue to keep playing better and better at the right time.”

The Hurons advance to their second consecutive regional championship game Thursday when they play Bellaire.

“We just have to continue going one game at a time right now. This was an incredible win for us, but we have to just continue to go out and play our game,” Quaine said.

Every set and every point was crucial in a match that went back and forth the entire night. The final set proved to be a perfect explanation of the entire night. A back-and-forth battle between two of the state’s top teams to survive and advance to the regional finals.

The Hurons took the largest lead of the set when they grabbed a 9-6 lead to force a Leland timeout.

The Comets responded by scoring the next two and forced Quaine to use a timeout to let her girls regroup and settle in.

That’s exactly what the Hurons did as they kept a two point lead late and ended the game scoring the final two points to send their team and crowd into a frenzy.

Rogers City, ranked eighth in Class D, jumped out to an early 7-2 lead and showed no fear of the number two ranked team in the state. But like a team that has been so dominant for so long and just two years removed from winning a state title, Leland did not panic at all and pushed the Hurons to the limit, finding ways to battle back and keep the sets close all night.

The Comets took their first lead of the opening set late when they rattled off five consecutive points to take a 20-19 lead.

Rogers City responded with three straight, but Leland score three unanswered points of their own to take a 23-22 lead before the Hurons rallied to score the final three points to take the first set.

“Every set was so important and it was good for us to battle and take that first, gain that confidence and know that we can compete with the number two team in the state,” Quaine said.

After falling behind again early in the second set, Leland continued to show poise and resiliency as it chipped away and kept the second set tight.

Both teams were tied at 18 before the Comets caught fire and scored six of the next eight points to force a Rogers City timeout.

The Hurons were unable to respond this time as Leland took the set and tied the match..

Much like Leland, Rogers City showed signs of a team that can rise up during big moments.

The Hurons shook off a tough second set and opened up another early lead led by some terrific serving by Taylor Fleming who served five straight points, including four aces to help Rogers City take a 15-4 lead.

Rogers City took advantage of the fast start and held off the Comets to regain the lead in the match.

All the momentum that the Hurons had was quickly erased as Leland jumped out to a comfortable lead early in the fourth set. The Comets took a 12-4 lead to force a Rogers City timeout.

After extending the lead to 17-8 it looked as if Leland was going to roll to an easy fourth set win, but the Hurons responded with six consecutive points to cut the lead to three and force a Comet timeout.

Leland scored four of the next five points out of the timeout to take a 21-15 lead, but again, Rogers City stormed back, scoring five unanswered to cut the lead to one, but couldn’t take the the lead as the two teams exchanged points late until Leland ended the set scoring the final two points to fittingly send the match to a dramatic fifth and final set.

I think when you play this kind of competition it really brings out the best in you and that’s exactly what happened tonight. This was the best I’ve seen this team play all season,” Quaine said.

Rogers City was led by Fleming who had a monster night with 25 kills, 24 digs, seven aces and two blocks. Kayla Rabeau added 20 kills and 18 digs. Kristin Brege fished out 37 assists. Jayna Hance ended the night with 25 digs and Hannah Fleming chipped in with 10 digs.

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