Saber spikers start slow, but batter Baldwin in 4 sets

Manistee Catholic Central’s Kaylyn Johnson receives a Baldwin serve during the Sabers’ four-set win over the Panthers Thursday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central’s Kaylyn Johnson receives a Baldwin serve during the Sabers’ four-set win over the Panthers Thursday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central improved to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in West Michigan D League volleyball play with a 4-set win over Baldwin in their 2018 home opener Thursday night.

The Sabers dropped the first set, but then swept the next three, in a match that did not see a single lead change until the fourth.

MCC head coach Dan Long said that his team made the most of the week since their last match, a tough-3-set loss at Big Rapids Crossroads on Sept. 6.

“After last week’s disappointment, we hustled,” Long said. “We ran them, I worked them at the net all week. They practiced well, they improved, they were a lot quicker.”

Italian exchange student Lisa Giani was the difference in the match, with team highs in kills (13) and aces (14), and a run of seven consecutive unreturnable serves that turned a fourth-set deficit into a comfortable win to close out the match.

MCC started slowly, falling behind the Panthers 8-2 out of the gate, and could not recover, dropping the first set 16-25.

Long said that he thought nerves played a part in his team’s sluggish start.

“That’s bound to happen, especially here at home, in front of their parents and their classmates and everything,” Long said. “They were a little nervous.”

But it was the Sabers’ turn to jump out to a quick lead in the second, as Natalie McLinden served MCC to a quick 3-0 advantage that they never relinquished. 

Rylee Feliczak served the Sabers to an 11-2 lead in the set, which MCC took 25-13.

It was more of the same in the third, which the Sabers began on a 7-2 run and led 17-9 before Baldwin made a bit of a comeback.

The Panthers clawed back to cut the score to 17-13 and draw a Saber time-out.

With Ana Watkins at the service line, the Sabers went on a 6-0 run from there, and closed out the set 25-15.

“I told them to cover your zone and make it happen,” Long said. “Just like we do in practice. A great practice makes a great game.”

Giani finished the third set with a clean ace, and served up two more to start the third, but Baldwin took the lead back with the next three points, in the first lead change of the match. 

The Sabers trailed 14-9 when McLinden served up three straight points to help cut the deficit to just two points.

With MCC still trailing 15-12, Giani stepped to the service line and uncorked seven consecutive unreturnable serves at a key point in the match, leading the Sabers on a 9-0 run that gave them the last lead that they would need on the way to a 25-18 win in the fourth to close out the win.

Feliczak finished with 12 kills, McLinden led the team with three blocks and Watkins contributed four kills and three digs for the Sabers.

The Sabers will continue their WMDL schedule in their next outing, at Mesick on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

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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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