Cardinals pass the test

Onaway sweeps Bellaire to clinch share of SVC title

News Photo by James Andersen Onaway players Kennedy Crawford (3) and Calley Selke (4) ready themselves to block a kill attempt from Bellaire's Sophie Rosiek, left, during a Ski Valley Conference volleyball match on Tuesday at Onaway High School.

ONAWAY–Onaway volleyball coach Steve Watson had a simple message for his team after it took the first set from Bellaire on Tuesday.

Keep it up.

In one of their most important matchups of the year, the Cardinals did just that.

The Cardinals had little to worry about as they swept Bellaire 25-19, 25-13 and 25-14 in a Ski Valley Conference matchup at Onaway High School.

In a battle of two conference unbeatens, the tenth-ranked Cardinals came out decidedly on top and clinched at least a share of the 2018 conference title with the win.

The Cardinals also gained a small measure of revenge against the Eagles, who defeated Onaway in five sets last year during a match in Bellaire.

“We guaranteed ourselves a part, but we’re not interested in sharing the championship,” Watson said. “I’m not going to lie, there was a little bit of payback mentality. We didn’t play well last year; we lost in five at their place. That was a real disappointing loss for us and I was hoping we’d come out and put our best foot forward. That was pretty close to our best foot.”

Senior Calley Selke had 18 kills and 21 digs for the Cardinals (25-12, 7-0 Ski Valley), who played arguably one of their most complete matches of the season. Matched up against the 6-0 Eagles, Onaway used a combination of strong net play, solid hitting from several players and heads-up defense to pull away from Bellaire in each match.

In the second set the two sides traded points before Onaway took over with a combination of offense and strong net play, turning a 7-6 set into a 15-7 Onaway advantage. Selke and Kennedy Crawford were among those who recorded kills, but the Cardinals also got strong blocking from McLean and Sunny Flory among others. One pivotal stretch came when Flory and McLean combined for a block, Selke recorded a kill and McLean pushed the ball over and caught Bellaire’s front row out of position, putting a stamp on an impressive 5-0 run that gave Onaway a 15-7 lead.

Bellaire briefly rallied later and made it 20-13, but Onaway tightened its hold on the match by scoring the last five points.

Breya Domke added 11 kills and 14 digs for Onaway and Mallorie Neelis had 33 assists and 10 digs. Crawford had seven kills, four aces and 16 digs and McLean had two kills, an ace, eight digs and two blocks. Jordan Larson chipped in with 12 digs and Karli Tulgestke had three digs.

After getting swept by Beaverton on Monday in a match where Selke was Onaway’s most consistent offensive player, Watson was happy to see the Cardinals spread the scoring a load more evenly, especially in such a pivotal matchup.

‘Tonight, Breya goes up and gets 11 kills (with only) four errors; Kennedy, seven kills, two errors; Malaurie (McLean), two kills, no errors,” Watson said. That is mammoth. That’s championship type volleyball difference making.”

With two sets in hand, Onaway again traded points with the Eagles in the third set and both teams were tied 13-13 midway through. Spurred on by a kill and a block by Crawford, Onaway caught fire one more time and closed the match out on a 12-1 run. Bellaire called a timeout twice during Onaway’s scoring surge, but it wasn’t enough to slow the Cardinals who got three aces from Crawford and several kills to complete the sweep.

Bellaire tested the Cardinals early in the first set, but the Cardinals once again started to pull away midway through the set. An early 7-0 allowed Onaway to take a 13-6 lead and another late run allowed Onaway to quash a potential Bellaire rally. The Eagles battled back to make it 19-16, but Selke recorded three consecutive kills to keep Onaway out front. Selke and Crawford each recorded a kill for Onaway’s final two points, giving the Cardinals an early advantage.

“It almost always is tight early on. You look at a score early, it’s like 6-6, then you look at a score later and it’s 25-10 on somebody or something. Other than in set two, they were within shooting range the whole time, so it keeps you on your toes,” Watson said. “After we won that first set my message to them was nothing changes; nothing changes, you go back and do the same thing.”

Onaway can secure the Ski Valley Conference title outright with a win over Mancelona next week and Watson is hoping his team makes good on its goal. A win would give Onaway six conference titles in eight years.

“We purposely set a goal to win the Ski Valley Conference and go undefeated. I don’t know if every other team does that,” Watson said. “That’s what we’ve done, we’ve sat down and set that (goal) the last seven years in a row and it’s worked five times.”