DEXTER - Saline opened the MHSAA volleyball playoffs by defeating Dexter in straight sets at Dexter High School Thursday. Hayley Turner and Emma Rigg dominated the middle while Kaija Sydlowski, Cassidy Bero, Julia Blaney and Bryn Batten scored from the outside as Saline won 25-17, 25-15 and 25-17.
The Hornets advanced to the district championship against Skyline, who beat the Hornets twice during the regular season. The match begins at 7 p.m.
Coach Emileen Palka was pleased with her team’s performance.
“I think we looked solid. We put in three really hard days of practice and they’ve been ready to go,” Palka said. “I feel like we clicked tonight. I’m just proud of how we performed.”
Saline started well, jumping to a 4-0 lead in the first set with Kaija Sydlowski landing a kill to highlight the run. Kendal Robison served an ace during another four-point run that made it 10-2.
With Julia Blaney serving, Saline went on a five-point run that featured two kills by Haley Turner, as Saline went up 19-10.
Sydlowski had two of Saline’s final three points as Saline closed out the first set, 25-17.
The second set started with the teams trading points. Turner opened the scoring with a kill. Sydlowski had two kills to make it 3-2, Saline. Julia Blaney made it 4-2 with a block. Tied at six, Saline started to pull away. First, Turner found the floor with a spike and then she scored another with a block. Saline led 9-6. The Hornets never turned back. A three-point run highlighted by a kill from Emma Riggs and Julia Blaney made it 14-9.
It was around this point that Julia Blaney took over. After the kill to make it 14-9, Dexter scored a point. Blaney responded with two kills. After a Dexter point, she found the floor with another spike to make it 17-11. Dexter responded with a point. But Blaney got it back with a back-row spike and then an ace to make it 19-12. Bryn Batten added a kill to make it 20-12. Batten, Sydlowski and Bero had kills down the stretch as Saline won 25-15.
Dexter scored the first point of the third set, but Saline responded with five straight points. First, Turner tied the game with a kill. With Sofie Peppard serving, the Dreads seemed to have difficulty returning the ball. It was 3-1 after a shot into the net and another shot landed out of bounds. Bero’s kill made it 4-1 and Peppard finished the run with an ace.
Sydlowski had kills for three of Saline’s next four points as Saline built a 9-5 lead. Riggs and Batten followed with spikes for points as Saline made it 11-5. After a point for the Dreads, the Hornets went on a four-point run highlighted by two Batten kills. The Dreads managed a point, but Saline went on a four-point run with kills by Hannah Blaney, Turner and Bero, to take a 19-7 lead.
Kills by Turner, Sydlowski, Bero and Julia Blaney put the Hornets on the brink of victory, with a 24-12 lead, but Dexter went on a late five-point run. Emma Rigg ended the contest with a block that fell for the match-winning point.
Palka liked the way her team fed the middle hitters - Turner and Rigg.
“It was important for us to feed our middles. Sometimes it takes a while to get our middles involved. Feeding the middles early set the pace for the game,” Palka said. “Having the outlets like Cassidy, Brynn and Kaija makes us feel good that we can shoot it out to them. But I think being more involved in the middle is going to help us with our offense.”
The Hornet seniors are enjoying this final ride with the volleyball team.
Any loss would be their final game. Any victory gets them closer to a trophy. A win on Saturday would clinch a district trophy.
“It’s different than it’s been in past years,” said Turner. “It’s more intense. Going out there, you have to give it 110 percent. There’s no giving any less than that.”
“Every single game you have to give out your whole heart, no matter what. Dive for every single ball. Hit for every single ball. Don’t baby it,” Sydlowski said.
Saline faces Skyline, who swept Huron in three sets. The winner will advance to the MHSAA Region 5 tournament which will include Bedford, Brighton and Novi.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
Haley Turner - The senior middle hitter dominated at times with spikes and blocks.
Emma Rigg - When Turner rotated out, Rigg stepped in and provided the same kind of dominance at the net.
Julia Blaney - Lots of girls deserve mention after a strong night, including Cassidy Bero and Kaija Sydlowski (who probably let the team in kills), but Blaney was a force all night, whether in the front row delivering kills, in the back row getting digs and passing, or at the service line.