Hillman takes district volleyball title with win over Hurons

by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor

The season came to an end for both the Onaway Cardinals and the Rogers City Hurons, both at the hands of the Hillman Tigers. Posen lost to Rogers City in the semifinals. Hillman topped Onaway in the district semifinals last week and then the Tigers advanced to the regionals with a win over the Hurons in the district finals. 

Rogers City got by Posen 3-1 (23-25, 27-25, 25-13, 25-20) in the first match Nov. 2 and Hillman topped Onaway 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-17) in the second match that day to earn a berth in the district finals.

Posen came out swinging in the first set against the Hurons, sparked by four kills from middle-hitter Ella Szatkowski to jump out to a 7-3 lead. The Vikings stretched that to 10-4 and then 23-13 before Rogers City mounted a late charge. Kills by Sophie Kieliszewski along with two aces by Alivia Freel helped narrow the score to 23-20. But a kill from Mia Newhouse, off a set from Ava Wesner, gave the Vikings point 25 and the first set win. 

POSEN AGAIN got a lead in set number two, jumping out to a 9-3 lead after two aces from Mallory Donajkowski. But then the tide of momentum swung over to the Hurons as they tied the set at 13-13 after a service error, and then scored the next five points. Posen tied the set at 18-18, on Wesner’s tip at the net and then the game was tied again at 20-20, 21-21 and 22-22. A block by Szatkowski gave Posen set point at 25-24, but the Hurons rallied for the next three points to take the set. 

Rogers City scored points in bunches in set three to earn the win. Posen took a 7-1 lead in set four before the Hurons charged to take the lead at 12-11. 

For Posen, Szatkowski had five kills, three blocks and two aces; Newhouse had two aces, four digs and five kills; Shelby Donajkowski had 23 digs; Wesner had eight kills, 14 assists and five digs; Mallory Donajkowski had two aces and six digs; and Alyssa Smigelski had nine digs. Posen finished at 7-15-1.

Posen coach Michelle Styma had positive things to say about her team. 

“The girls played extremely well tonight. We have nothing to be ashamed of going out on that note, especially with the way we had played Rogers City the other times this year,” Styma said. “They were communicating tonight like I’ve never seen them communicate. Just their talking tonight was amazing. I am extremely proud of all of them.”

For Rogers City, Brooklyn Orr had 13 assists and two aces; Kieliszewski had nine blocks and 10 kills; Savannah Tulgestka had 15 digs and two aces; Alyssa Hein had eight digs and eight kills; Kaitlin Nowicki had 15 assists, five kills, four digs and three blocks; and Freel had six kills, three blocks and three aces. 

THE ONAWAY Cardinals had their season end on the home court as Hillman moved on with a 3-0 win. The Cards fell behind early in the first set as Hillman jumped out to a 9-4 lead. A kill from Sydney Peel and Ema DeMaestri came before another rally for the Tigers. 

The Cards jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set before Hillman went on a 7-0 run. Onaway scored three points before Hillman went on a 9-0 run to go up 15-7. But the Cards answered with a run of their own. With Grace Watson at the service line, Onaway scored five points. Hillman held on for the win. 

Onaway again got an early lead to start the third set at 4-3, but a 7-0 run powered Hillman to a 14-8 lead. Facing the end of their season, the Cards rallied to make the score 19-17, but could get no closer as Hillman scored the last six points of the set to earn the match win over the Cardinals. Onaway finished at 19-20-1 for the year.

Aubrey Benson had eight kills, 15 digs and two blocks; Grace Watson had 18 assists and 13 digs; Peel had six kills and 17 digs; Sadie Decker had five kills and eight digs; Ella Lintz had 11 digs; and Kenzie Robbins had three kills and 10 digs. 

The Cards finished the season at 19-20-1, a rare season under .500 for coach Steve Watson’s team. 

“You always feel bad that you can’t make it happen for the seniors, regardless of what level you are at whether it is districts or regionals or whatever it might be. You always feel bad that it comes to an end. I thought our kids played hard. There is no quit in us. That is a positive, but it is tough. We are a young team and have a lot of improvement to go to be better next year,” coach Watson said.

WINS BY the Tigers and the Hurons set up an all-orange and black battle for the district trophy. Hillman took a 3-1 win (15-25, 25-21, 20-25, 19-25) over Rogers City to move on to the regional round. 

Hillman set the tone for the match by running out to a 7-0 lead in the first set and led 10-5 before Nowicki’s kill, off a set from Orr, made it 10-6. But the Tigers went on a 10-2 run to build a 20-8 lead before Huron co-coaches Megan Brege and Jena Grulke called timeout. 

Their team responded with a 6-1 run highlighted by two aces from Hein and a kill from Freel before Hillman notched the winning point in the first set.

A kill from Kieliszewski was part of a 4-2 run to open the second set. Nowicki’s ace made the score 9-6 before Hillman rallied for a 10-9 lead. The lead changed hands three more times in front of Rogers City’s winning run. An ace from Freel and a kill from Nowicki gave the Hurons set point. Hillman ran off three points in a row to cut the lead to 24-21, but a service error by the Tigers gave the Hurons the win. 

Rogers City led 9-3 in the third set but Hillman slowly and steadily came back to take the lead at 14-13 and then regain it at 20-19. Hillman then put it away with three points to take a 2-1 lead in the


Again, the Hurons got off to a lead in the fourth set, going up 8-4 before Hillman coach Kim Weiland called timeout. Her team responded with an 8-0 rally, taking the lead for good and ending the season for the Hurons at 12-23-3.

“We are very, very proud of the girls and of their fight tonight. We made sure that they knew that because we have come a very long way from our first tournament in the Soo, where we were all scatter-brained on the court to where we are now. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win tonight. One team has to lose and it didn’t go our way today,” said co-coach Brege.

“We couldn’t be prouder of how far they have come this season. It took us longer to find that fight in them, and for them to believe in themselves, but they found it. They have got to be proud and we are proud of how far they have come in one season and how hard they fought today,” Grulke said.