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Onaway captures third straight district championship

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki The Onaway volleyball team celebrates after sweeping Hillman to win a district championship on Thursday at Hillman High School.

HILLMAN–For the third year in a row, Onaway is a district champion.

The Cardinals claimed their third consecutive title by defeating Hillman in the district championship for the second year in a row. They swept the host Tigers 25-17, 25-19 and 25-17 on Thursday.

“We got more to give, but you (saw) flashes of how good we can be tonight,” Onaway coach Steve Watson said. “We have to do a better job taking care of the ball, but I’m pleased with a lot of our play. It’s a district and you’re always excited to put a number up on the banner and take a trophy home.”

Much like last year’s district final matchup, Onaway was in control right from the opening whistle. 

Despite being in the comforts of its own gym, Hillman was unable to muster enough momentum to slow the Cardinals down in their quest for a three-peat.

“Three in a row and the last two we’ve had potential to do some serious damage later on in the season and we went a ways two years ago,” Watson said. “A large majority of the teams are out of the state tournament after this weekend so regardless of how we got here, we got here, we won a district and I just love winning and I really like putting numbers on a banner, so it’s motivation.”

The Cardinals got off to a fast start and carried the momentum throughout a match that they trailed in for just a few seconds.

Onaway went on an 8-1 run midway through the first set to open up a commanding 20-11 lead and coasted to an early lead in the match.

The second set was much of the same as the Cardinals opened up an early lead and built on that lead midway through the set. They took a commanding lead in the match before putting the Tigers away in the third and final set.

Onaway was led by Breya Domke who had 14 kills and five digs. Cloe Ehrke dished out 21 assists and added 14 digs, three aces and three kills. Lexi Horton added seven kills and four aces. Both Nicole Larson and Macie Decker each chipped in with six digs.

The Cardinals now advance to their third regional semifinal appearance in the past three years and will be looking for a similar result as the previous three trips. Onaway has come away victorious the past two years in the semifinal game and has advanced to the regional championship game.

The Cardinals hope history repeats itself with another semifinal victory and a shot at redemption in the regional championship game after falling in the title game a year ago.

In order to get back to a third regional championship game in as many years, Onaway might through Ski-Valley Conference foe Indian River Inland Lakes on Tuesday in Pellston.

If that’s the case, Onaway will also look to avenge an earlier season loss to the Bulldogs that went the full five sets and resulted in a heartbreaking two-point loss for the Cardinals.

“It will be different this year because we’ll see a conference opponent and one we only played once and our only conference loss,” Watson said. “Both teams are different and improved and we’re looking forward to the match and looking forward to playing a team that got us earlier in the year. I think it’s a little added motivation for us.”

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