Saline defeated Manchester and Dexter and varsity volleyball action at a tri-meet held at Saline School Friday evening.
The Hornets started by defeating Manchester, 25-13 and 25-9, and then finished by sweeping Dexter, 25-10 and 25-20.
The Hornets were led by senior outside hitter Kaija Sydlowski, who had 16 kills. Junior middle blockers Reese Page and Emma Rigg controlled play at the net. Hanna Blaney, Kendal Robison and Sofie Peppard led the team in digs.
“We have such a short pre-season against good competition. So what we wanted today was to come out and play with a lineup that clicked,” coach Emily Palka said. “We also wanted to be aggressive and not sit back if our opponents did. I thought we did that most of the day. We lost it a little bit in the final game when I inserted players who didn’t play much early. But we played well.”
Saline played Lake Orion Saturday and hosts the SEC Red Jamboree Monday.
It’s a big test for a team that graduated seven seniors. Still, while this team is young, there’s a lot of returning experience.
Sydlowski, who committed to play volleyball at West Liberty, will be a leader from the outside hitter position. She showed that Friday.
“She’s a great hitter, but we look at her as an all-around option as well. She’s come into her senior year ready to roll,” Palka said.
She’ll be joined up front by the junior middle blockers, Reese Page and Emma Rigg. They played junior varsity together last year and seemed to play well together at the net Friday.
“They handled the play well,” Palka said.
Rigg also showed a good serve and has the athletic ability to play defense in the back row when serving.
Seniors Hayley Turner and Cassidy Bero are taking the lead at right hitter.
Junior Julia Blaney will start at setter but also offers Palka the versatility to play virtually anywhere on the floor. Josie Bero and Abigail Zambeck also play at setter.
Palka has three girls vying for the defensive specialist spot, including junior Hannah Blaney, senior Kendal Robison and senior Sofie Peppard. Who starts Monday? Palka said it’s close and could come down to who ever looks sharpest in warmups.
“Defense is a strength. We have three senior defensive specialists (also including Abigail Kreuzer). I also like our strength down the middle. We have two tall middles who can block, and that’s going to work in our favor,” Palka said.
Palka wants to see her setters take charge of the floor.
“They’re setting well. But I look at setters like the quarterback of the team. Right now, they’re a bit quiet and not as assertive as I’d like. I want them to run our offense,” Palka said.