VOLLEYBALL: Saline Sweeps Pioneer in SEC Red Action

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Sporting a new-look lineup, the Saline varsity volleyball team shook off a slow start to sweep Pioneer in SEC Red action at Saline High School Tuesday.

Saline won 25-17, 25-19 and 25-15. Saline improved to 12-3-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC Red.

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Saline began the game with star sophomore Mallory Bohl and hard-hitting junior Anna Hesse on the bench. That meant more time for sophomore Catherine Flaharty, freshman Marie Laurio and junior Beth Ann Ford - and they answered the bell.

"I think we had a lot of strong moments. We have a lot of girls competing for playing time at practice, which I like. It was a good showing, to be able to play different players at different positions. But we could always do a little bit more every day," coach Emileen Palazzolo said. "Marie really stepped up on the outside. We had Beth Ann, Liz (Vance), Mallory and Molly (Rigg) in that middle spot. We're having different combinations which is nice, because we can work on them in practice and use them at any point in competition."

Ford, Flaharty and especially Laurio had kills early in the first set as Saline built a 12-7 lead. Pioneer cut the lead to 14-11, but Laurio had three kills to give Saline an 18-13 lead.

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Pioneer closed the gap to just two points, at 19-17, but the Hornets prevailed with kills by Flaharty and Ford. Then Laney Burns served two aces. Saline sealed it when Burns set up Ford for a heavy spike that found the center of the floor.

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Set two started with Saline taking a 2-0 lead - which included another ace by Burns. Up 4-3, Vance and Laurio scored points with spikes to make it 6-3. Up 6-5, the Hornets went on a six-point run with Olivia Behen serving. Megan O'Neill had a kill and Ford had two, while Behen served an ace for during the run. Saline's 12-5 evaporated. Pioneer cut the lead to 14-11, 17-15, 18-17 and 21-19 before Saline finally put the Pioneers away.  Laurio started the set-ending run with a kill. Saline earned another point on a block by Ford. After a Pioneer shot went out of bounds, Behen served another ace. Saline got point 25 on a block by Bohl.

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In the third set, after Pioneer scored the first point, Saline scored 11 of the next 12 points to take a commanding lead. Burns served two more aces and also dropped a kill in the middle of the Pioneer floor. O'Neill served an ace. Flaharty found the floor for a kill. Ford had two blocks and Hesse had two kills.

After kills by Vance and Laurio, Pioneer went on a four-point run to make it 16-11, Saline. But the Hornets had no trouble putting Pioneer away and won, 25-15.

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Coach Palazzolo was asked about the contributions of her junior setter, Laney Burns.

"She does a tremendous job with the amount of pressure we put on her. Being a 5'1 setter is not an easy job. We have high expectations for her," Palazzolo said. "With her serve, she can gain a lot of points for us."

Palazzolo said her team has potential - but that it must work hard if it's going to be realized.

"We have so much potential. I feel like we can be a top team in the state. We just have to make sure we're working at it every single day," Palazzolo said. "I'm proud of how we've done the last week, but we always have to push more."

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