Lakers, Portagers advance to district title match

Onekama’s Kristin Bonecutter helped the Portagers advance to Saturday’s Division 4 district title match against Bear Lake in Brethren. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

Onekama’s Kristin Bonecutter helped the Portagers advance to Saturday’s Division 4 district title match against Bear Lake in Brethren. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

Sabers, Bobcats ousted from tournament play

BRETHREN — The Division 4 volleyball district semifinals were held in Brethren Thursday, with Bear Lake and Onekama earning a spot in the finals Saturday after netting wins over Manistee Catholic Central and Brethren, respectively.

In the first match, Bear Lake topped Manistee Catholic by scores of 25-21, 25-21, 20-25 and 25-12.

“We just couldn’t put it together tonight,” said Manistee Catholic Central coach Dan Long. “We had a hard time with the pressure, the stress and putting it all together. I don’t know what to say.”

Bear Lake’s Olivia Hejl had three consecutive aces to give the Lakers an 8-3 lead in set one. MCC’s Lisa Giani had a pair of spikes during a Sabers’ 5-0 run which gave Manistee Catholic a 14-10 lead.

“I don’t think Catholic came — in my opinion — with their A-game tonight,” said Bear Lake coach Marla Evans. “I think they were struggling. … We weren’t expecting that, but we were ready for their A-game.”

A pair of aces by Bear Lake’s Shaely Waller gave the Lakers a 15-14 advantage and they never looked back. A spike by Giani cut the Laker advantage to 24-21 but a serve into the net gave the first set to Bear Lake.

“(Bear Lake) has gotten a lot quicker,” Long said. “A lot quicker. (Evans) has done a good job with them from the beginning of the year. She’s turned them around 180. They’re a lot quicker than I expected and my girls couldn’t hang with them tonight.”

The semifinals marked the fourth time the Sabers and Lakers clashed this season, with MCC coming out on top in two of the three previous meetings.

The Lakers jumped out to an early lead in the second set, building up to a 13-6 advantage before the Sabers started to reel them in. An ace by MCC’s Rylee Feliczak gave the Sabers the lead at 19-18. Bear Lake regained the lead and a Giani spike cut the Laker advantage to 22-21 but the Sabers would be shut out for the remainder of the set.

“Teamwork (was critical),” Evans said. “And hitting at the net. Our hits were on. Our serves were going over, for the most part. I think that was it.”

Julie Schmidt had five kills, four aces and two digs, Waller had seven aces eight digs and one kill, Kaitlyn Omar had eight kills, two aces and two digs, Abigail Cross had two kills, five aces and two digs while Olivia Hejl had 12 assists, seven aces and one dig.

The Lakers held a 5-1 lead in the third set before the Sabers scored five unanswered points to take the lead with Kaya Watkins behind the service line. The game was tied at 17 before a Feliczak spike and a Watkins ace allowed MCC to pull away. The third set was punctuated by a Giani spike.

“I told them this was their night if they want to do it,” Long said. “It could be over — not their career, because they’re all sophomores and juniors. I don’t have any seniors except for (Giani). I just told them, ‘This is your night. The magic is here. If you want to do it, you can.’”

Feliczak led the Sabers with eight aces and 12 kills. Giani added four aces, three blocks and six kills, Natalie McLinden tallied six assists and two blocks, Kaylyn Johnson had six assists and Watkins recorded two aces and four assists.

The score was tied 7-7 in the fourth set before Bear Lake pulled away. A net violation by MCC ended the match and paved the Lakers’ way to the district finals.

“We’re still doing aggressive work on our attack defense to get ready for whoever we’re going to play,” Evans said. “We will be working on serves and transitioning, moving and talking. Talking, talking, talking. These girls need to talk.”

Though disappointed with the loss, Long was proud of the way his team battled and improved over the course of the season.

“We had a really good season from where they were last year,” Long said. “We had an outstanding season overall.”

In the nightcap, Onekama swept the Bobcats in three sets by scores of 25-15, 25-15 and 25-15.

“We stayed strong — stayed together,” said Onekama coach Linda Elo. “They just had fun out there but they played their game. They’re playing at a really good level and I’m just really proud of that.”

Brethren’s Whitney Danks scored the first point of the match with a tip over the net. Onekama held a 3-2 advantage before going on a 6-0 run featuring two aces by Sara Bromley and a spike by Colleen McCarthy.

McCarthy led the Portagers in kills with 13 while Wisniski added seven. Ella Acton had 15 serves, Kaitlyn McGrady had four blocks and Hughes tallied 28 assists.

A timeout by the Bobcats did little to slow the Portagers’ momentum, and a tip by Sophie Wisniski gave the first set to Onekama.

“We knew exactly what we were up against,” said Brethren coach Jody Powell. “It’s just covering it. We did get quite a few rallies out of them this time. There were quite a few cross rallies. We were able to dig up and make them work. … I’m good with that. I’ll take it.”

An ace by Halle Richardson gave the Bobcats a 4-2 lead in the second set and they played close with the Portagers, trailing 12-10 before Onekama pulled away. A Wisniski spike followed by a hit out of bounds by Brethren gave the second set to the Portagers.

“We had our opportunities to swing at the ball,” Powell said. “We did tool quite a few of the blocks which was nice, because we worked on it throughout the week. Getting it touching the fingers. There were probably five of those. I would have liked 10 of those instead of five, but it’s new to them.”

Danks paced the Bobcats with eight kills, six digs, one assist and an ace. Megan Cordes had a team-high 10 digs, Meggan Macurio had three kills and seven digs, Kylah Fischer had seven digs, one assist and three kills while Summer Young had a team-high 16 assists to go with five digs and one kill.

The Portagers never trailed in the third set, and an ace by Hanna Hughes punched Onekama’s ticket to the district finals.

“Serving was a lot stronger tonight,” Elo said. “I was really happy to see that. … We’ll probably work on a couple defensive things but I’m really proud and happy with where they’re at with their play right now.”

Though disappointed with the loss, Powell said the Bobcats players could never be faulted for a lack of effort.

“When you only have nine on your bench in total and you have to go out there and you have to get a job done regardless of what it is that you’re up against, and they still give me 100 percent every day — leave bruises, hit the floor, put those little hands up against those bigger girls, swing hard against those bigger people, serve hard — what more can you ask for in character?” Powell said. “Yeah, it’s the end of our season, but I certainly didn’t lose.”

Onekama will face Bear Lake in the district finals Saturday at Brethren at 6 p.m.

“We’ve already played Bear Lake so we kind of have a little bit of knowledge about them,” Elo said. “They’re a good defensive team.”

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