Onaway wins third straight district crown

ROGERS CITY-Anybody expecting an exciting match between Rogers City and Onaway in a Class D district volleyball final on Friday, couldn’t have been disappointed after a nail-biting four set match, that saw Onaway shut down Rogers City by taking a 27-25 fourth set victory to earn its third district championship in a row.

Onaway won the first set 25-20 and the second 25-19, while Rogers City forced the fourth with a 25-18 win.

“I knew coming into this game that it was going to be the toughest district we’d ever faced and Rogers City did not disappoint,” Onaway coach Steve Watson said.

Onaway travels to Sault Saint Marie on Tuesday to face Pellston in a regional semifinal.

The Hurons scored quick in the first set, taking a 10-3 lead that the Cardinals couldn’t seem to shake. Especially prevalent during this first set was Cassidy Purgiel and server Courtney Streich. Purgiel picked up two kills during this stretch while Streich had two aces.

Purgiel ended the night with seven kills, three blocks and four aces. Streich had five kills, four aces and 23 digs.

At an 11-4 Rogers City lead, Onaway changed its approach. The Cardinals had been relying on hard spikes by Mariah Ehrke and Devin Bristley, but the Hurons consistently returned these attacks.

Ehrke had 20 kills, four aces, three blocks and 21 digs. Bristley had 11 kills, one ace and 23 digs. Lexi Szymoniak had seven kills, two aces and 12 digs in the match while Elise Arkwood had six digs.

The Cardinals switched to a tip-based attack that threw the Hurons off guard. Onaway was able to pick up nine straight points to take a 13-11 lead.

“(Onaway) is a real smart team and when they started tipping, it threw us off. We couldn’t adjust and they picked up a lot of points,” Rogers City coach Jackie Quaine said.

Once it got the lead, the Cardinals never dropped it.

Onaway took quick control in the second set with a 12-5 lead. The Cardinals’ defense held off the Rogers City attack for large scoring streaks.

“We have a small team, like them, so if you want to win, you really have to focus on defense and out hustling the other team,” Watson said.

The second set featured hard play from both teams, but Onaway took firm control early, never let down it attack and took the 25-19 win, maximizing the effectiveness of setting from players like Taylor Ehrke with the defensive acumen of players like Morganne Badgero.

Taylor had 39 assists, three aces and 14 digs while Badgero had 15 digs.

The Hurons once again took the lead in the third set, pulling forward to a 10-7 lead. Jenna Tulgetske had several key strikes during this streak as did Sarah Meredith.

Tulgetske had 17 kills and five blocks for her team while Meredith had 10 kills.

Onaway didn’t let up its attack, picking up key hits from Sarah Fullerton that helped tie the game at 15-15. The Hurons scored the next five points thanks to some solid defense from Megan Brege and Megan Quaine. Quaine had 27 digs in the night while Brege had 23.

“Our defense was just huge in that third set. Megan Brege really kept us in their by digging back some big spikes from Mariah (Ehrke),” Jackie Quaine said.

The fourth set started much more evenly, as Onaway took a tentative 9-8 lead. Mariah picked up four kills early in the set, while Rogers City varied its attack.

The Hurons ran into serving trouble throughout the set and had four service errors. Rogers City was able to hold off Onaway defensively, as it pulled into a 14-14 tie.

A five-point scoring streak gave Onaway a 19-14 lead, but Tulgetske answered back with a few kills to narrow the game to an 18-17 Cardinal lead.

Onaway pulled ahead to a 23-18 lead, sitting just two points away from the district championship. The Hurons then scored seven of the next nine points to tie the match at 25.

On the tying point, Mariah Ehrke went up for a block and came down hard, twisting her ankle. She had to be helped off the court by Watson and her teammates.

Onaway then picked up two straight points for the 27-25 win.

“Right now, my thoughts are mostly with Mariah. It’s hard to see one of your players get injured on the second to last point of the match. But, it was a hard fought match that my girls played hard to win,” Watson said.

Eric Benac can be reached via email at ebenac@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.