Cardinals overcome uneven play to reach district final

News Photo by James Andersen Onaway’s Breya Domke hits the ball over the net during a district semifinal on Wednesday against Hillman.

HILLMAN–The Onaway volleyball team didn’t have its best performance on Wednesday.

But at the end of the night, the Cardinals did what they needed to do to put themselves in position to win a district championship.

Breya Domke had 13 kills and seven digs to lead the Cardinals in a sweep of Hillman during a Division 4 district semifinal at Hillman High School.

Onaway won 25-15, 25-13, 25-13 and will play Posen in Thursday’s district final in Hillman for a chance to win its second straight district championship.

Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Cardinals entered the district as the prohibitive favorite, but for a large chunk of Wednesday’s match, Onaway struggled to maintain its usual solid play. The Cardinals got off to a slow start, but improved as the match went on and played well enough in stretches to hold off the Tigers.

“Not our best performance. You know, I was kind of hoping we’d come in and play really well, really efficiently,” Onaway coach Steve Watson said. “It’s districts and usually when it’s district time regardless of who’s across the net from us, we’re usually firing on all cylinders.”

Onaway finally got into a rhythm in the final set with Domke leading the way. She recorded seven kills in the set and made several heads-up plays to give Onaway a sizable lead the whole way. Onaway started the set on a 5-1 run and eventually took leads of 12-6 and 18-9 before going on to win.

Hillman, which was trying to set up a chance to play for a district title for the second straight year, played well in stretches, but couldn’t keep it going consistently. Those lags in intensity proved costly as Hillman went from keeping things close to falling behind by five points or more in a matter of minutes.

Hillman coach Kim Weiland applauded her team’s effort, but said Hillman’s communication was lacking.

“We needed to keep our intensity and we definitely were not doing that,” Weiland said. “We had our little stretches where we were going to turn it around and then they would come back and score five points and put us back down.”

Nonetheless, Weiland was proud of her team’s growth during the season, culminating in a district win on its home floor.

“We went from losing almost every game in the beginning of the season to winning almost every game at the end of the season. They have come a long way. They’ve improved (tenfold) and learned how to be a team,” Weiland said. “I’m really proud of how they’ve come this season. This is a really good group of girls who were really enjoyable to coach.”

Both teams got off to a slow start, trading service errors on the first three points of the match. Onaway held a tentative 14-13 lead midway through the first set until some Hillman errors helped the Cardinals pull ahead and end on an 11-2 run.

Onaway raced out to an 11-3 lead in the second set, but Hillman was able to keep it within six until late when the Cardinals pulled away on a 10-4 run.

Jackie Sellke added four kills, five assists, and two aces for Onaway; Mallorie Neelis had six kills, 20 assists, three aces and three digs; Malaurie McLean had four kills, two aces and three digs and Jordan Larson had three digs.

Emma Libby had six aces, four assists and a kill for Hillman; Melanie Morrison had an ace, seven digs and a kill; Makenna Grulke had two kills, eight digs and an ace; Ellie Crawford had 12 digs, an ace and a kill and Angelina Hunt had eight digs and two kills.