by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
Joy. Joy. Joy.
Huron players and fans stormed the court after the team took down Crystal Falls Forest Park avenging a loss to the school, which knocked a very good Huron team out of the tournament last season. Rogers City (35-10-1) now moves on to the Class D state semifinals to face the Auburn Hills Oakland Christian Lancers in Friday’s 2 p.m. game. The Hurons won 3-1 (25-23, 26-24, 17-25, 25-23) in four hotly contested sets.
The Lancers (42-4-5) topped Portland St. Patrick (22-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-19). The winner of that semifinal plays the winner of the Plymouth Christian vs. Leland semifinal set for 3:45 p.m. Friday. Leland is the defending Class D champion while Plymouth Christian ended the season ranked No. 1 in the coach’s poll.
Coach Jackie Quaine’s charges played inspired volleyball Tuesday in Engadine. They hustled to cover the court, zoned in on their serving and never gave up. They earned the right to compete for the state title at the Kellogg Center in Battle Creek. But the road to the final four would not be easy, as CF wanted to make a return trip to the big stage.
“They really tested our defense as far as making us stay true to our lines tonight. And they were hitting everything, whether it was a bad pass or a set that is way off the net, they were hitting the ball. We don’t see that kind of aggressive competition, but that is what happens when you keep moving up the ladder, it keeps moving up another notch,” said Huron coach Quaine.
In the first set, the Hurons got off to a great start getting out to a 7-1 lead after Kayla Rabeau’s spike. Rabeau, who had 22 kills in a dominating performance, took a set from Hannah Fleming to start a three-point run as the Hurons went up 14-7.
Then RC went up 16-9 as Taylor Fleming, who attacked from all positions on the net during the match, nailed a kill. After a Hannah Dittmar smash down the line, Crystal Falls called timeout. That sparked a rally, which saw Crystal Falls come back to tie up the score at 21-21. Then Crystal Falls gave up a point on a lift before Rabeau smashed an overpass to give the Hurons a 23-21 lead. Crystal Falls tied it again before Rabeau’s kill and an error provided the final margin of victory for the Hurons.
IN THE second set the score was tied 11 times before the Hurons finally prevailed. Each team had its time to shine in the game. For the Hurons the sound of “boom” came from blasts from Taylor Fleming, Rabeau and Dittmar. A boom from Dittmar, off a set from Erika Peacock, knotted the score at 5-5. But neither team could manage to pull away until Crystal Falls scrambled to a 12-9 lead following an ace serve.
Then came the Hurons with a rally to make it a Rogers City lead at 18-14. Veronica Szcerowski and Taylor Fleming teamed up for a double block and a Huron point. There was no quit in Crystal Falls as they ended a run with a tip over Huron
blockers to take a 21-19 lead. That set up an exciting finish in the Engadine gym. With about equal noise coming from each school’s fan section, the teams were tied at 23-23 and again at 24-24 before the Hurons rallied for the last two points and a 26-24 win. A bad serve by Crystal Falls gave point 24 to Rogers City. Then with Peacock at the service line, a shot by Crystal Falls’s left hitter sailed by Rabeau out of bounds on the Hurons’ left sideline for the set point.
NOW, ONE set away from a trip to the final four, Rogers City saw Crystal Falls come up with a win to prolong its season. The third set started much like the second, with the score tied seven times until CF managed three points in a row to lead 11-9. A quick tip by setter Hannah Fleming broke the run. Moments later Taylor Fleming jammed a free ball to the floor then stepped back to deliver an ace to make the score 15-13. But the Hurons could get no closer as Crystal Falls closed the set out to make it 2-1 in the best-of-five match.
Rabeau, who used a variety of tips to all parts of the floor, and smashes right through the heart of the defense, spiked a winner from the left-hitter spot for point 10. An error gave Rogers City point 11 and then Rabeau’s tip and blast earned points 12 and 13. A time out by CF came before an ace from Mary Brege, giving Rogers City a nice 14-8 lead.
Another comeback between two hard-hitting teams made it 14-11 before Saige Wagner’s tip from left-hitter broke the run. Crystal Falls tied it at 16-16 and again at 19-19 before taking a brief lead at 20-19, after an ace down the right sideline.
The score was tied again at 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23, giving the fans their money’s worth. Rogers City took a 24-23 lead to give it match point as Wagner stepped to the backline to serve. She launched a serve, which landed untouched in the far left corner, hitting all floor as Crystal Falls players willed it to be out. After a long pause of disbelief, the Huron players reacted to the chair referee’s call of “in” and went wild with happiness.
Quaine did a few things to make sure her hitters were free by moving them around the net for open opportunities.
“Kayla was really hot tonight. That is something that we have to work on, too. We have to make sure we keep Taylor off the net a little bit because the blockers were right there and it was hard to get around them. But once she does, she can put the ball down,” Quaine said.
Rogers City had not lost a set in the tournament so far, but so the same could be said about Crystal Falls. But the team has played some close games in the run, which served the team well when it came to the quarterfinal match.
“The games were point-for-point. We are a team that has kept ahead of them so this was new for us, too,” Quaine said.
After the Hurons lost the third set, Quaine’s message to the team was simple.
“We’ve got more games to play. That’s why they give us five games to play. Its anybody’s game,” she told them.
Statistically Rabeau had 22 kills and 18 digs while Dittmar added seven kills and 19 digs. Taylor Fleming had 14 kills and two solo blocks and Peacock had four ace serves and 17 assists. Hannah Fleming had 16 assists, Jayna Hance had 15 digs and Wagner had 16 digs and one ace serve, which was the match winner.
Now they have the chance to play on the big stage against the top teams in the state. The Advance will be at the finals and will update our Facebook during the matches and give more details at PIAdvance.com shortly after the match. Full coverage will be in next week’s edition.