After years of heartbreak in district championship matches, Saline is victorious.
The Saline volleyball team defeated Huron 25-8, 25-12, 25-18 at Dexter High School Saturday to win its first district championship since 2005, when Lauren Paolini led the Hornets to the quarterfinals.
“It feels really good. We’ve worked really hard this year, harder than we ever have. It feels really good to finally have (the trophy) and to bring it back with us,” senior Zoey Ammon said after post-game celebrations.
Saline advances to the regional tournament at Saline High School. The Hornets play Riverview Tuesday night. If they win, they’ll face Allen Park or rival Bedford in the regional championship.
Coach Kenny Seiler said he was proud of the girls’ latest milestone in the team’s best season in more than a decade.
“Today was a total team effort. That’s the way it’s been all year,” Seiler said. “But we’re really playing well right now.”
Seiler noted the team made four hitting errors the entire match. For the second straight set, the Hornets dominated the opening two sets. Until the third game, Saline prevented Huron from stitching together more than two consecutive points.
“Huron was out for blood but we put them down in three,” said senior Payton Cole. “Right now we’re at our highest peak. We’re putting in work in practice and we’re ready to go.”
The attack was led by Madison Whitfield (10 kills on 10 attempts, 7 blocks, 3 aces), Olivia Sovitch (10 kills, 10 digs, 14 service points, 2 aces) and Olivia Hesse (9 kills on 11 attempts, 4 blocks). Olivia Vance and Liz Howden each had six kills. Zoey Ammon had 39 assists without an error. She also served two aces. Payton Cole had 16 digs. Mickaley Monahan had eight dogs and 10 service points.
The Hornets were never behind in the first two sets. The first set started with Ammon scoring on a tip.
Up 7-4, the Hornets took control with a seven point run highlighted by an ace by Monahan and a couple of kills by Whitfield. After giving up one point, Saline went on a five-point run with Emily Finkbeiner serving. It was capped by a kill by Sovitch. After a couple of points for Huron, the Hornets went on another five point run. Sovitch had three kills in a row at one point. Saline won 25-8.
Saline started the second set with five quick points with Ammon serving. Sovitch and Hesse had kills. After a point by Huron, the Hornets punched out six more points, which included kills by Howden and Vance and several diving digs by Cole. Saline led 11-1. Up 17-9, Hesse landed a kill, Sovitch fired an ace and Howen landed a kill. Saline finished the game with three straight points, including a kill by Whitfield.
Huron opened the third set by taking a 5-1 lead. Whitfield helped right the ship with a thunderous slam from the middle. After a Huron point, she started a seven-point run with a block. When she capped the run with a kill, Saline led 10-7. Huron stayed close, but the Hornets dominated play at the net. Whitfield had a kill and Hesse a block during a three-point run that made it 20-12.
Up 23-14 after a kill by Howden, nerves set in as the Hornets realized they were close to realizing a season-long goal. But Saline got one point closer with a kill by Hesse and then celebrated after Vance’s spike glanced of a blocker’s hands and fell to the Huron floor.
Saline has now won 28 straight sets.
The Hornets now turn their attention to the regional.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got another day in the gym ahead of us to get ready for Tuesday’s regionals,” Ammon said.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
- Maddie Whitfield – 10 swings, 10 kills. 7 blocks. On those occasions when she gets a full swing on the ball, you can feel the momentum shift in the gym.
- Olivia Sovitch – Nearly closed out the first set by herself with three straight kills. Continues to get it done in three key aspects of the game – hitting, defense and serving.
- Payton Cole – Provided defense that rose to the level of inspirational in the first two sets. She’s taken her game up a level for the playoffs.