DEXTER - The Hornets started and finished in dominating fashion as Saline bested Pinckney 25-3, 25-11 and 25-18 to advance to the district semifinals. It was coach Kenny Seiler’s 300th victory in Saline.
Saline will face Skyline at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Dexter. Ann Arbor Huron and Ann Arbor Pioneer play in the other semifinal. The winners play in the district championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Dexter.
Saline totally dominated the opening set. Kills by Olivia Vance and Oliva Hesse helped the Hornets jump out to a 3-0 lead. After a point for the Pinckney Pirates, Zoey Ammon scored with a tip. That brought Payton Cole to service line. By the time she was done serving, Saline led 19-2. The 16-point run featured three aces by Cole, a couple of blocks and a kill by Maddie Whitfield, and three kills by Hesse.
“When you get on a run, you never want to see it end. It almost didn’t. That was a great,” Seiler said.
Saline went on a five point run, which included blocks by Whitfield and Vance. Pinckey added another point but Saline won it, 25-3, with a tip by Ammon.
The Hornets weren’t quite as sharp to start the second game. The game was tied at six when, with Whitefield serving, Saline rolled to eight straight points. The run featured an two by Whitfield, a kill by Vance and a tip by Ammon.
Up 16-10, Vance drilled a spike that started a run during which Saline scored nine of the set’s final 10 points. Vance and Liz Howden each had two kills during the run. Cole served an ace and Hesse had a kill. Saline won 25-11.
The started the third set by giving up two points before going on an eight point run. Hesse and Vance each had two kills on the run. Up 8-2, the game seemed to get away from Saline, which failed to score back-to-back points during a long stretch. The Hornets fired a lot of shots out of bounds during the sequence.
By the time it was done, Pinckney led 18-15.
“Sometimes we have a tendency to let up in the pedal a little bit. We’ll get sloppy and make three errors in a row. That’s not this team. We’ll make an error and find a way to get the next one back,” Seiler said.
But Saline responded with a 10-point run the proved to be the match’s finale. It opened with a kill by Whitfield that sent Mickaley Monahan to the service line. She served two aces during the 10-point run.
“It took us a little time but we hit the switch. We were down 18-15 and we put up 10 points in a row to close it out,” Seiler noted.
Cole finished the match with a team-leading 19 service points and five aces. Monahan (13 points, 2 aces) and Sovitch (13 points, 1 aces) were also strong on the service. Cole led the Hornets with 19 digs. Sovitch had 17.
Whitfield led Saline with six blocks. She also had six kills. Hesse led the attack with 10 kills. Vance had seven and Howden had four.
Ammon had 30 assists.
It was Saline’s 42nd victory of the season. For coach Kenny Seiler, it was the 300th of his coaching career at Saline. Seiler is in his 10th year at Saline. He coached for six years before getting married and starting a family. After some time away, he returned to the program to coach the freshmen. Four years ago, Seiler resumed his position as head coach of the varsity program.
Asked to reflect on 300 victories, Seiler smiler.
“You must have gotten that from dad, right? He’s the only who tracks these things,” Seiler said.
But Seiler is happy to be back as coach of the varsity squad.
“I have a passion for the game and I really have a passion for the Saline Hornets, being an alum, so I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else,” Seiler said. “Even when I was taking time off, I never wanted to be away.”
It’s a passion he hopes his players will carry with them when they graduate.
“I want to make it so the kids want to coach come day. If the kids love the sport so much that they want to give back and pass the game on to others, then I’ve done my job,” Seiler said “If they enjoy themselves and have passion for the game, that’s all you want.’
Seiler has made no secret of his admiration of this year’s group. He likes the balance – four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and now, four call-ups from the junior varsity team. The team has talent all over the floor. At the net in the middle, at outside hitter, at setter, in the back row and at the service line.
“The thing I like is they’re playing for each other. They’re there to support each other when someone struggles. They get on someone if they’re not holding themselves accountable,” Seiler said. “They do a lot of self-policing so that the coaches don’t have to do as much.”
The Saline Post 3 Stars
- Payton Cole - Cole served a 16-point run and led the team in service points and digs.
- Olivia Sovitch - So much versatility. She defends from the back row, she's a great outside hitter and she can serve with the best of them. Sovitch, earlier in the day, committed to continue her volleyball career at Lourdes.
- Olivia Hesse - When the Hornets need to bear down and get the point, it's usually Hesse.