Manistee Catholic outlasts Brethren in 5-set thriller

Manistee Catholic Central’s Lisa Giani (9) goes for the kill during the Sabers’ 5-set win over Brethren in a key West Michigan D League volleyball match Tuesday night. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central’s Lisa Giani (9) goes for the kill during the Sabers’ 5-set win over Brethren in a key West Michigan D League volleyball match Tuesday night. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

BRETHREN — Brethren volleyball hosted Manistee Catholic Central for a West Michigan D League contest Tuesday, with the Sabers coming out on top in five sets by scores of 25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 23-25 and 15-10.

The Sabers (7-3 overall, 6-3 West Michigan D League) jumped out to an early 10-5 lead over the Bobcats (4-5, 4-5) behind a pair of aces by both Lisa Giani and Kaya Watkins in the first set.

“(The key was) teamwork, some good power serves for points and putting together sequences of bump, set and spike,” said Sabers head coach Dan Long.

Whitney Danks toed the service line for Brethren and came up with two aces of her own and eventually Brethren held an 18-15 advantage. MCC’s Nicole Kaminski then held serve for eight points and eventually a Bobcat spike went into the net to give Manistee Catholic the first set.

“To me it was serve receive and serving,” said Brethren head coach Jody Powell. “I needed those key points. … There was a little panic on the youth end. I have two very young players and there was a little bit of a panic but they fought through it. Kaia (Richardson) had a couple of errors and then she fought through it by giving us a nice serve at the end of the fourth set.”

The Sabers held a 15-10 lead in the second set until Danks held serve for five points to give Brethren a one-point lead. Kylah Fischer got a late ace and Danks tipped the ball over the net to secure the second set for the Bobcats.

“You see a little bit more of a fighting team versus a flatlining team,” Powell said. “There’s a big difference in their competitive spirit.”

Lisa Giani led the Sabers with seven kills, nine aces, two blocks and seven digs. Kaya Watkins added three kills, three aces and one dig, Rylee Feliczak had two kills, one ace and three blocks while Natalie McLinden tallied one ace, seven assists, four blocks and two digs.

“(Giani) is phenomenal,” Long said. “She is college material. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough that she goes to college in the States, and maybe in Michigan.”

Manistee Catholic Central held the lead throughout the third set until Brethren tied things up at 11-11 and Kaia Richardson aced to give the Bobcats the lead. The game was tied 15-15 before the Sabers went on a 10-1 run to take the third set.

“I think we were nervous because we knew how they played — they tipped and set it really well,” Feliczak said. “But we ended up using our heads and playing smart and using what we had to work with.”

For the Bobcats, Danks recorded eight aces, four kills, 12 assists and 12 digs. Fischer had 12 kills, five aces, four assists and eight digs while Summer Young added three kills, five assists and 16 digs.

Brethren held the lead throughout the fourth set until the Sabers tied things up at 14-14. Three consecutive aces by Danks late gave the Bobcats a 23-22 advantage. A tip by Halle Richardson gave the serve to Brethren and Kaia Richardson won the set with an ace.

“Obviously, in the middle of the game we had to change up,” Powell said. “But our rotation is set to where we have options. We don’t have to do substitutions. We can just call an audible right in the middle of the game. Someone else is serve receiving. Someone else is setting. We keep going without the whole set falling apart, so that’s worked out for us well.”

The Sabers took an early lead and never looked back in the final set, and a Feliczak tip gave the deciding set to the Sabers.

“This is our last conference game,” Long said. “The tournament is Saturday. We’re just going to practice hard. We have a bye the first round for the districts. … We’re just going to keep practicing and do our best. My girls are psyched and I’m really proud of them tonight.”

Brethren next competes Saturday at 9 a.m. in the West Michigan D League Championship at Big Rapids Crossroads. The Sabers travel to Evart to take on the Wildcats Thursday at 7 p.m. in a non-conference game before also participating in the conference tournament.

“Honestly it was just well-balanced and (the Sabers) got us,” Powell said. “That’s what I see. It’s well-balanced and they got us with probably a better hitting percentage than ours, but I’m sure these girls want another crack at them on Saturday. This was really close.”

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