The Saline varsity volleyball team swept Pioneer, 25-18, 25-21 and 25-14, on an emotionally-charged night at Saline High School Tuesday.
Tuesday’s match was Saline’s first league contest at home this season, so the volleyball program used the night to showcase all of its teams, from middle school to high school varsity. Players on the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams were escorted on to the court by their parents.
Prior to the game it was announced that Stephen Szuminski, father of three-year varsity player and 2016 graduate Angela Szuminski, had died after a heart attack. He had been training for the Chicago Marathon.
Following a moment of silence the contest began and the Hornets were understandably out of sync. After a series of unforced errors the Hornets were down 7-2.
“I think there were a lot of things that made it difficult for the Hornets to focus tonight,” Saline coach Kenny Seiler said. “But we battled through it.”
The seniors helped Saline turn it around. First Olivia Sovitch (11 kills, 5 digs) delivered a soft but well-placed spike for a point. Senior Olivia Hesse (9 kills, 2 aces) took the court and delivered a spike. Kathryn Wilkie followed with a block and after Pioneer shot fell out of bounds, Saline was down 706.
Down 9-7, Saline got kills from Sovitch and Olivia Vance (4 kills) and a block from Madison Whitfield (9 kills, 2 blocks) to take a 10-9 lead. The teams battled back and forth. After Pioneer took a 17-16 lead Sovitch landed another kill to tie the game. After another Saline point Hesse served an ace and Saline led 19-17. Pioneer got point back but Saline regained the serve and then Mickaley Monahan served out and Saline won 25-18.
Things didn’t start well for Saline in the second set. The Hornets were down 3-0 when Hesse put Saline on the board with a kill. Emily Finkbeiner followed with three aces during the five-point run. Saline and Pioneer battled back and forth, with neither team able to put together more than two straight points until late in the match. Up 18-16, Whitfield struck for a kill. Sovitch followed with a kill from the back row. Olivia Vance also had two kills during the five-point run and Saline led 23-16. Pioneer tried to claw its way back with five of the next six points but Whitfield ended the suspense with a kill to the center of the floor.
The Hornets saved their best for last. Down 1-0, Hesse and Sovitch delivered kills and Finkbeiner had one of her digs bounce back for a point.
Up 3-2 Whitefield and Sovitch delivered kills during a four-point run. Taylor Basler delivered a kill and Brianna Woods an ace to make it 9-4. Another five-point run featured two tips by Zoey Ammon (34 assists, 4 kills, 2 aces), kills by Sovitch and Whitfield and an ace by Monahan to make it 14-5. Ammon served an ace and Vance had two kills during a three-point run that made it 20-8.
The match ended in familiar fashion, with Whitfield delivering a thunderous spike for the 25-14 victory.
“I’ll be happy if all our matches end that way,” Seiler said, remembering that Whitfield did the same thing Ypsilanti last week. “Maddie had a great day. She took 11 swings and made only one error.”
The Hornets are off to an incredible start at 22-3 overall and 6-0 in the SEC.
“I like the way we’re playing. I’d like to see more consistency. At times, we’re terrific. But there are times when we don’t have the focus I’d like to see,” Seiler said.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
- Maddie Whitfield – Had two game-winning spikes, including a lightning bolt to end the match. Only credited with two blocks, but she was a deterrent at the net all night. She finished with nine kills.
- Olivia Sovitch – Especially early in the contest, every time Pioneer went on a run, it seemed like Sovitch helped get the Hornets back in the game with a kill. She finished with 11 kills.
- Emily Finkbeiner – Finkbeiner (9 digs) and Payton Cole (15 digs) did most of the work on defense. Finkbeiner also helped the offense with five aces.