Playing in your last high school home game in front of your family and friends is always a bittersweet moment for a student athlete. You realize it is all coming to an end. All of the years of practice and games, all the friends you have made, all the teammates who have graduated before you, and all of the times you experienced the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, it hits you -- your last game has arrived.
And that is what the six seniors on the Saline High School’s varsity volleyball team experienced Tuesday evening when they hosted the Dexter Dreadnaughts. And as each senior was recognized in a pre-game program, the six seniors: Cassidy Bero, Kendal Robison, Kaija Sydlowski, Haley Turner, Emily Cook and Sofie Peppard, were hearing the cheers from their family, friends and fans for the last time.
But the six seniors, and their teammates, were committed to going out in style. They were introduced to the over-flow crowd with their parents. They were given flowers and gifts. They were entertained with extraordinary dance routine by the team’s underclassmen.
But the six seniors knew that to meet their season goals, they needed to lead their team one more time. Senior hitters Haley Turner and Kaija Sydlowski had this to say about senior night. “This team has been like a rock for me,” said Turner, “I have looked forward to playing every day. These girls are my friends.”
Sydlowski added, “they (her junior teammates) put on an insane demonstration. We did it for last year’s seniors but this went way beyond anything done before.”
The seniors delivered one more time, taking three games from the Dreadnaughts, 25-14, 25-15 and 25-23. With junior Emma Rigg serving, the Hornets went on a 7-0 run to take a 17-8 lead. The run featured tough defensive play, with Turner getting two blocks at the net.
A slam by Turner extended the lead to 20-9. Senior Kendall Robison served the final two points of the match to secure the 25-14 win.
In the second game, Robison’s serve turned a 4-3 deficit into a 10-4 lead, featuring slams by Turner and Rigg. Another slam and block by Turner upped Saline’s lead to 16-10. Sydlowski’s serve extended the Hornet lead to 21-11, featuring a powerful slam at the net by senior Emily Cook. Robison rotated into the game and served up the final two points to win game two 25-15.
The Dreadnaughts fought hard in game three, falling behind 15-9, as Turner and Rigg slammed home point after point. However, Dexter fought back to tie the game at 20-20, when Saline called a time-out. A couple of slams by Rigg and the sharp serving by junior Abigail Zambeck took game three 25-23.
Following the game, Saline Head Coach Emileen Palka said she was very proud of her team and the seniors. “We got off to a bit of a rough start but the seniors really came through. This year’s group of seniors are well balanced and have provided great leadership.”
Palka continued to reflect on this year’s senior class. “They have taken everything I have given them. They work hard in practice, have shown great leadership. They really want to win.”
Palka credited the group of seniors for instilling a desire to fight hard, in every game, for every point. She said that because of the seniors the team goes as hard as they can every day.
And as these six young ladies finish their final season on the volleyball court for their school, they have left their mark on the program.
The Hornets get into action next week when they host the Quad match at Saline High School next Saturday. Games start at 8 a.m.
SALINE POST THREE STARS:
1st Star: Haley Turner, Cassidy Bero, Kendal Robison, Kaija Sydlowski, Emily Cook, Sofie Peppard
2nd Star: Emma Rigg, Julia Blaney
3rd Star: Hannah Blaney, Abigail Zambeck, Sydney Baldwin, Abigail Kreuzer, Bryn Batten, Reese Page, Annie Miloser, Josie Bero