By Darryl Warner
This past week marked the beginning of the road to the Michigan High School Athletic Association State Volleyball Championship. Dexter High School hosted the District 17 playoffs for Huron, Pioneer, Dexter, Saline and Skyline.
The Eagles came into the playoffs with a target on their back as they planned to defend their 2018 District Championship. The Eagles won last year’s championship against Saline after losing the first two sets and coming back in dramatic fashion, winning the last three sets.
On Saturday night, the stage was set for a District Championship rematch.
Skyline beat Huron in three straight sets and Saline beat Dexter in three straights sets on Thursday evening to set up the Eagles-Hornets championship. Coming into the match Skyline had the advantage as they beat Saline on two previous occasions this season. Saline, on the other hand was motivated to knock off the Eagles.
In set one, the lead went back and forth until the Eagles scored four consecutive points behind the offensive play of Harper Murray, Kendall Murray and a defensive block by Sophie Schrag to take an 11-7 lead.
An ace by Megan Brummet opened the Eagles lead to 13-9. Saline scored two consecutive points to close the lead to 14-11. The Eagles regrouped and opened their lead to 18-13 after sets from Stacie Warner to Kendall and Harper Murray and an ace from Warner. The Eagles went on to score three more points opening the lead to 21-13.
The Hornets would score two more points but the Eagles won the first set 25-15 with an assist from Warner to Harper Murray.
Continuing her dominance in serves this year, Harper Murray served an ace to take a 1-0 lead in the second set. Skyline scored two more points to take a 3-0 lead over the Hornets.
The Hornets scored three consecutive points to tie the score at 3-3. Saline gained momentum and the Hornets took a 6-4 lead. The Eagles bounced back and took an 8-7 lead on an assist from Warner to Harper Murray. Saline kept the score within one point at 11-10, but Skyline scored four consecutive points to open a 15-10 lead over the Hornets.
Saline, sensing the game getting away from them called timeout. Behind the serves of Harper Murray Skyline scored two more points to lead 17-10. Saline scored on an errant serve from Harper Murray, but Skyline rebounded by scoring four consecutive points for a 21-11 lead, which was highlighted by a great block from Sasha Akuezue.
Saline would gain momentum and cut the lead to 23-16. Saline would score two more points, but Skyline won the second set 25-18.
One more set and Skyline could celebrate a District Championship.
Saline was determined to not make it easy for the Eagles to win their second consecutive championship. The Hornets jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but the Eagles answered with a tip from Kendall Murray to tie the score 1-1.
Early in the third set the score was tied on four more occasions, 2-2, 7-7, 8-8, and 9-9. Saline gained momentum and Skyline began struggling with the ball on their side of the net. Saline took a 12-10 lead and Coach Cristian called a timeout. Sensing the Hornets could might be able to win the third set the Saline student section jumped to their feet in excitement.
Skyline remained calm, tied the score at 13-13 and took a 14-13 lead, which they did not relinquish. Saline called timeout 19-16 after an attempted kill by the Hornets went out of bounds. Saline closed the gap to one point at 20-19 after a great block.
Not phased by the comeback, Warner assisted Harper Murray with a kill. Saline scored one more point and Skyline won set three and the 2019 District Championship for the second year in a row on an ace from Claire Salato.
Congratulations coach Chris Cristian and the Skyline Eagles on winning the 2019 District 17 Championship.
Skyline will face a familiar foe in the next round. The Eagles play SEC rival Bedford in a Regional semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Howell HS.
Brighton faces Novi in the earlier semifinal game with the winners playing in the Regional final at 7 p.m. on Thursday also at Howell.