BELDING — At least one of our area teams will be crowned a district volleyball champion at the end of today.
The Central Montcalm Hornets and Belding Redskins made sure of that with Class B district semifinal wins on Wednesday night at Belding. The Hornets needed five games to do so, while the Redskins advanced after three games.
The Hornets, playing first, dispatched the Alma Panthers 18-25, 25-19, 25-23, 23-25, 15-9 to advance.
“This is definitely one of the best matches we played this year. We were on,” Hornets coach Haley Dawe said. “I think the key for us all year has been the confidence piece and getting over being nervous and big game situations.”
The Hornets (14-15-4) were met with several big game situations and more times than not, met the challenge.
After falling in the the first game, the Hornets responded by beginning the second game with a 6-0 advantage. They increased the lead to 20-11 and were never really challenged in game two.
In game three, the Hornets jumped out to a 15-7 and led 21-15 late. Alma went on a 7-2 run to get within 23-22, before the Hornets overcame the rally to win two of the final three points.
“It’s a different team than we had a couple of weeks ago,” Dawe said. “We would miss one serve and our team would go down. Tonight, we brushed off mistakes and moved on.”
Game four was close early before the Panthers opened a 14-9 lead. With Alyssa Ruggles serving, the Hornets rallied to take a 17-14 lead. Trailing 24-20, the Hornets got to within a point at 24-23, but could not stop the Panthers from getting their final point.
Alma started the deciding game with a 3-0 advantage. Unlike previous games this year, the Hornets held tight and went on a 15-6 run to win the match.
“We went out there nervous and just had to breath a little,” Dawe said. “We shanked a few passes, I pulled them aside and told them we could do this. Then we went out there and played.”
Paige Switzer led the Hornets with 15 kills, 13 digs and three aces. Makayla Studley had seven kills and Kirsi Singh had six kills and four blocks. Michaela Crooks led with 17 assists.
“Our defense was on tonight and they were all over the floor,” Dawe said. “They wanted it. I have eight seniors this year and they know it is do or die now. They are playing that way.”
In the second match, the Redskins cruised to victory over the Shepherd Bluejays with a 25-9, 25-21, 25-15 win.
“I thought they played well,” Belding coach Mikayla Linebaugh said. “It’s tough. We never saw them play before and I didn’t know anything about them, but we kept our tempo up in the first game.”
Belding (16-16-5) opened the match with a 9-1 run and was never threatened in the first game.
Game two was tight at the end. Belding led 20-12, before the Bluejays went on a 9-1 run to tie the game. Belding won the final four points to end the comeback effort.
“Game two we came out a little bit lax and they took advantage of it,” Linebaugh said. “That is a very good coaching job. They went after it with nothing to lose. We had to fight for game two.”
The Redskins found their temp in game three and ended the match on a roll.
“We turned our tempo back around and took care of business in game three,” Linebaugh said. “We didn’t know them, but we never take anything for granted.”
Rachel Hunt led the Redskins with 20 digs and 10 kills. Brooke Linebaugh had 29 assist, 12 digs and four aces. Sam McNeal also had four aces. Hannah Linebaugh had 12 digs and eight kills, while Stefanie Harig added nine kills.
Belding will meet Central Montcalm tonight at 6 p.m. at Redskin Arena. It will be the first meeting between the two programs this year.
“It’s the district finals and everyone will put it on the line,” Linebaugh said. “I expect a good game. We have not played them this year.”