Cards take district title; host regional match Tuesday

Onaway moves into a rematch with Inland Lakes in the regional semifinals Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Onaway High School. The Cards earned its fourth-straight district title with a hard-fought 3-0 (25-16, 25-7, 27-25) win over Hillman Thursday at Rogers City. 

Onaway got things going in the first set by taking a 12-5 lead and never losing control. The Cards took advantage of missed attacks by Hillman while landing their own shots to the floor. A kill by Lexi Horton gave Onaway a 19-12 lead before Nicole Larson’s ace notched point 20. Sydney Peel smacked a shot for a kill to earn point 25 and a first-set win for Onaway. 

The Cards dominated set two, turning an 8-3 lead into a 13-3 lead behind Horton’s serving and dominating play at the net. Three aces by Macie Decker keyed another run that boosted the lead to 21-4. 

Onaway eased off on the gas a bit as Hillman made a charge in the third set. Hillman had set point at 24-22, but couldn’t put the set away.

“Hillman did a good job in that third set. They just didn’t roll over. I didn’t like how we were too relaxed going into that third set,” said coach Steve Watson. 

Horton had 13 kills with a .407 attack rate, with five aces and 10 digs; Cloe Ehrke had 19 assists with six digs; Lainey Shimel had six digs; Larson had two aces and eight digs; Aubrey Benson had three kills; and Macie Decker had eight aces and three digs.

Onaway made it to the finals with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-14) win over Rogers City in the semifinals Nov. 3. The Hurons put up a fight, but the Cardinals always had an answer. Rogers City led 10-7 in the first set on the strength of a kill by Alivia Freel and an ace by Ila Bisson. But Onaway’s Lexi Horton and Cloe Ehrke each had kills in a rally that saw the Cards take an 11-10 lead. 

The set was tied at 11-11 and 12-12, before the Cards went on a run to lead 23-15 after Ehrke’s ace serve. An ace from Kaitlin Nowicki and a rotation error pulled the Hurons closer at 23-18, but a service error and a kill from Horton closed out the set. 

Rogers City again started strong in the second set going out to a 7-1 lead before the Cards rallied to take an 11-8 lead highlighted by two kills from exchanges student Vicky Mosteirin.

The Hurons worked their way back to a tie at 17-17 after Sophie Kieliszewski blocked a shot and Ryleigh Talaske slapped a free ball for a point. The game was tied again at 19 and 20 before Onaway went on a run to get set point. 

Onaway jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the deciding set and closed out the match by scoring the last seven points. For the Hurons Bisson had 18 digs, Nowicki scored on four aces, Kieliszewski had three kills and two blocks and Freel had three kills. 

For Onaway, Horton had 11 kills, 11 digs and four aces; Ehrke had 29 assists, 24 digs, two aces and three kills; Larson had seven kills, five assists, three aces and 16 digs; Shimel had 14 digs; Vicky Mosteirin had nine kills and 15 digs; Benson had four kills and two digs.

“All we said going into the match was that we had the game to take it to them. We know that they are a really good team and it was going to take everything that we had, put it all together and to the girls credit they did for the majority of that match,” said Hurons’ coach Jon Hoydic. 

“We had them on the ropes in the second set. They pulled some amazing plays, diving plays from outside the court to bring the ball in. That swung the momentum.”

The coach praised the team for improvement shown from the beginning of the season. 

“It was a rollercoaster, but for the most part we were going up and up and up and getting better and better. They put it together today and did everything they asked me to do,” Hoydic said. 

The team graduates seniors Raegan Comerford, Ryleigh Talaske, Ila Bisson, Alexis Budnick and Emma Budnick but returns a solid group next season. 

Posen lost 3-0 (23-25, 22-25, 15-25) to Hillman to end their fine season. 

 “Hillman plays tough. I am very proud of the girls. We finished 17-8-1, one of the best records if not the best record in Posen volleyball history so we can’t be too sad. The girls have been competitive all year and I am going to miss these senior girls. To lose this group of girls is very hard,” said Posen coach Michelle Styma. 

Those seniors include co-athletes of the year for the 2020-2021 Makayla Kamyszek and Elizabeth Romel, along with Abi Schellie, Leah Themel and Sara Cecconello, and exchange student from Italy. Also playing her one and only year was exchange student Carlota Julia. 

“There is no lack of hustle or drive with this group. They never give up and never quit. They never will,” Styma said. 

The first set with Hillman was tied six times in the early-going before Posen took a lead. Kills by Romel, Schellie and Cecconello had Posen leading 15-11. Another blast from Cecconello, off a set from Ava Wesner, gave the Vikings a 21-15 lead. But Hillman came back to tie the game at 21-21. The Tigers scored the last four points, after another Cecconello kill, to take the first set. 

Posen had a 14-7 lead disappear in the second set. Hillman tied the game at 17-17, but Posen answered with an two aces from Romel and a kill from Cecconello from

the left side. 

That would not be enough as Hillman scored seven of the last eight points, interrupted only by a service error, to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match. 

In the deciding set, Posen started quickly with a 5-1 lead, but just as quickly fell behind at 12-8. Cecconello, whose presence as an all-around player increased Posen’s chances of winning this season, nailed the last kill of her short career as a Viking volleyball player for point 14, the number on her jersey. That came before an 8-1 rally for Hillman that gave them the set and match wins. 

Cecconello had 14 kills and 20 digs; Romel had 15 digs’ Shelby Donajkowski had 10 digs; Mia Newhouse had 11 digs; Kamyszek had 18 digs; Romel had 15 digs; and Wesner had 19 assists and 22 digs.