Manistee Catholic spikers hang with Evart, but fall in four sets

Manistee Catholic Central freshman Kaya Watkins (center) sets the ball, as teammates Johnna Hanson (left) and ELizabeth Nelson (right) look on, during the Sabers’ 19-25, 25-13, 24-26, 15-25 loss to Evart Thursday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central freshman Kaya Watkins (center) sets the ball, as teammates Johnna Hanson (left) and ELizabeth Nelson (right) look on, during the Sabers’ 19-25, 25-13, 24-26, 15-25 loss to Evart Thursday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — After a winless 2016 campaign, Manistee Catholic Central very nearly put together a winning streak in volleyball.

The Sabers picked up their first win in two years Tuesday night against Baldwin, but lost a tough four-setter to Evart on Thursday, 19-25, 25-13, 24-26, 15-25.

Elizabeth Nelson led the way with seven kills and four blocks in the match, Kaya Watkins had four digs and Rylee Feliczak led MCC with three aces.

Sabers head coach Taylor Ozimac said that the score was not indicative of the quality of her team’s performance.

“It didn’t go our way, but I’m not by any means upset,” Ozimac said. “I saw, I feel like, a completely different team today. Their communication and their movement was the best it’s been all year. We’ve been harping on it all year, and this was the first time I’ve seen them implement it.

“It warmed my heart.”

Evart jumped out to an early lead in the first set, 8-3, and never trailed, but the Sabers (1-8) rallied back and made them earn it. A serving ace by senior Sarah Bialik closed the gap to 21-17, but that would be as close as MCC would get.

Feliczak led the way in the second set, serving a 6-point run to give the Sabers a 7-2 lead that they would never relinquish.

A clean kill by Feliczak and a clean ace by Watkins provided a promising start to the third set, which MCC led 9-2 early. But the Wildcats clawed back, and went on an 8-1 run in the middle of the set to take an 18-14 lead.

Feliczak stepped up and served for seven straight Saber points, and MCC was on the verge of closing out the set, but Evart staved off defeat by scoring the last four points to steal it 26-24.

One chilling outcome was a key injury in the fourth set, when Bialik rolled her ankle with the Sabers trailing 11-7. Bialik was in obvious pain and her absence was immediately felt on the court, as Evart went on a 7-2 run and cruised to the 10-point win to close out the match.

Ozimac said that losing one of her team leaders could be devastating with the West Michigan D League championship tournament just two days away, on Saturday, Oct. 14.

“That’s huge,” she said. “Hopefully it’s minor and she can be back on her feet. I’m not super-optimistic for Saturday.”

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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