After enduring a slight scare, the Hartland volleyball team is back where it wants to be — the Class A district volleyball finals.
The Eagles got there by eliminating South Lyon, 25-13, 25-14, 23-25, 25-12 in the tournament semifinals on their home court Wednesday night.
“Hopefully, we can get a little revenge,” Hartland junior Liz Storm said. “We lost in the finals last year. Hopefully we can come out on top.”
The Eagles will take on Milford, which swept Howell earlier on Wednesday, at 6 p.m. Friday at Hartland High School.
Hartland got out to big leads in the first two games, but found South Lyon fired up in the third game.
“They came back with a fight,” South Lyon coach Mindy Collins said of her team. “Our energy level went up and we made less unforced errors.”
The Lions also kept libero Callie Harper lined up where Hartland’s Sarah Skinner was likely to hit the ball, and that enabled the South Lyon offense to function.
“They picked it up and started playing better,” Hartland coach Katy Westenberg said of the Lions. “I think we got caught sleeping. We played well in the first two games, and when they picked it up in the third we were a little frazzled because they were playing better.”
Still, the Eagles led 23-21 and looked to be ready to close out the match when the Lions made a final push, scoring the game’s final four points.
“I told them (after the game) that they’re picking up and we have to make sure we continue to play our game,” Westenberg said. “I said, ‘There’s no reason to get nervous or back away when teams come at you. You have to step up and play even harder.’ They really did that in the fourth game.”
The Eagles did that behind the Storm sisters, Liz and Anna.
Early in the fourth game, Hartland took a 10-8 lead after a sideout and turned the serving over to Liz Storm, who served the next five points as the Eagles moved the lead out to 15-8. Anna Storm later extended the Hartland lead to nine and the Eagles were on their way.
“I love them,” Westenberg said of the sisters. “They feed off each other and feed off the team.”
Liz Storm fed the Lions a steady diet of hard topspin serves that sank like rocks after crossing the net.
“She had us all out of whack,” Collins said.
“When we got the lead, we realized we gotta go, go, go from here,” Liz Storm said. “We didn’t stop.”
Storm had 11 kills, nine digs and seven aces for Hartland. Anna Storm had 13 digs and Skinner added 19 kills, five digs and five aces.
Earlier, Howell came out strong in the first game against Milford before falling 25-19, then saw Milford roll after that, 25-12 and 25-11.
“We just wanted to win so bad,” senior Erin Hamilton said. “We wanted to show everyone what we improved upon during the season, so we had a lot of fight.”
“I think it was one of those games where people don’t think Howell is ready to play,” coach Jayne Williams said. “I kept telling our girls that teams were looking past us. They had the opportunity to come in.”
The Mavericks, duly notified, put the second game away early while moving out to an 18-4 lead and the Highlanders struggled after that.
“Milford woke up (late in the first game) and they got a string,” Williams said. “They got a ton of serves in a row and we couldn’t get out of that rotation.”
But, for a Highlanders team that had struggled mightily in recent years, it was a step forward.
“I think we’ve made the best progress I’ve seen Howell volleyball make,” said Hamilton, who had 10 kills and three blocks for the Highlanders. “I think we’re going to keep making progress, and this showed that volleyball is turning around.”
“I’m extremely proud of my girls,” Williams said.