If all goes well, the Saline volleyball team’s match at Saline High School won’t be their final contest on their home court.
Thursday night, Saline defeated Chelsea 25-9 and 25-8 and bested a pesky Huron team 25-19 and 25-22 in their final regular season match at home. Saline has tournament Saturday and then visits Dexter Tuesday to play Pinckney in the district tournament.
Saline coach Kenny Seiler liked what he saw from his team against Chelsea but he was unsatisfied with the Lady Hornets’ play against Huron.
“Against Chelsea we kept the ball in play and kept a good tempo. Huron has some height and made it tough on us with great defense, digging up balls that were going to the floor,” Seiler said. “To me it looked like Huron wanted it a little more than us and that can’t happen at this time of year. We’ve got to want every point, every match if we want to be successful.”
Against Huron, the Hornets made just three attack errors on 36 attempts. Madison Whitfield led the attack with seven kills and 2.5 blocks. Olivia Vance (5 kills) and Olivia Sovitch (5 kills) also helped the attack. Defensively, Payton Cole led the Hornets with nine kills. Cole also led the Hornets with 11 service points and two aces. Emily Finkbeiner had 10 service points and two aces. Zoey Ammon served three aces and had 20 assists without an error.
Things weren’t quite so easy against Huron. In the first set, Saline didn’t take the lead until a kill by Hesse made it 14-13. The Hornets never looked back. In the second game, Huron led 20-17 before the Hornets went on a six point run with Whitfield serving to take over the game.
Whitfield, who had four kills and two blocks in the match, led Saline with 10 service points. She also had 2 digs.
Saline has been trying a new offense and new rotation. As a result Whitfield, who usually stars at the net, has been getting more opportunities to serve and play from the back row. Against Huron, she thrived in the new role.
“She doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to serve and play back there. Up until Tuesday she’d probably only served 10 times all year. And now she’s probably served 30 times since then,” Seiler said. “She goes through the same passing and serving drills as everyone else in practice. It’s a credit to her. She doesn’t take plays off in practice or in games.”
Some of the best volleyball of the night came with Huron trying to come from behind late in the second match. There were several long rallies, and two of those, including the game-winning point, ended on plays by senior setter Zoey Ammon.
“Zoey’s offense really helps us. When they start to double team on Olivia Hesse or Maddie, having Zoey as an option for points is a huge help,” Seiler said. “She’s done that all year. She’s got over 100 kills from the setter spot. That’s a great option to have.”
Ammon finished the second match with five kills, 22 assists, four digs and two aces.
Olivia Hess led the attack with 10 kills. Cole had 13 digs and Finkbeiner had seven digs. Liza Howden had 1.5 blocks and four kills. Olivia Sovitch also had four kills.
Saline improved to 35-7. Asked to assess the girls’ season before the playoffs begin, Seiler began with the SEC Title. They won the league with a 9-1 record, snapping Bedford’s 12-year group on the SEC Red.
“That’s huge. That’s something no Saline team has done for a very long time,” Seiler said. “We’ve won close games. We’ve won big games. We’ve only been blown out once all year. So it was a tremendous regular season.”
With the playoffs less than a week away, Seiler thinks his team is primed for success.
“The goal is to have the girls ready, physically and mentally, for the second season. I think they’re ready,” Seiler said.