For five years, Brighton had won Class A district volleyball titles, swatting aside rivals along the way.
Monday, it was the Bulldogs’ turn to be swatted aside.
Hartland, behind Sarah Skinner’s 17 kills, overwhelmed Brighton, sweeping the Bulldogs 25-11, 25-21, 25-14.
The Eagles, playing on their home court, will take on South Lyon in the second game of a district semifinal doubleheader on Wednesday.
Although the Eagles had rolled past Brighton twice this season, coach Katy Westenberg still was nervous going in.
“When I get worried, I go shopping,” she said, laughing, “which isn’t good for the bank account.”
Her nervousness didn’t last long. The Eagles came out like a team finally glad to play someone else after a week of practice, getting out to a 7-1 lead in the first game and rolling past a Brighton team that never came close to getting into a rhythm.
“I think the first game was mostly jitters,” Brighton coach Shelley Fix said. “We gave them the majority of their points from our errors. Silly things. We were worked up and overplaying a little bit.”
And the Eagles, as they’ve done most of the season, made their opponents pay.
Hartland has been almost uncanny at times this season in finding ways to both keep the ball in the air and getting it to Skinner, who is almost as dangerous in the back row as she is in the front.
And when the Eagles needed to put the ball down, Skinner was ready. The Bulldogs never really adjusted.
“They have a really good offense,” Brighton senior Morgan Patterson said. “They’re a really good team. They’re really scrappy and they get all the blocks off of us. They’re just really good.”
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, came out in the second game and showed they weren’t of a mind to go easily.
“We forgot about the first game and then we wanted to go out and win,” Patterson said. “We played our hearts out.”
Brighton took a 20-17 lead before Hartland turned the tide and scored eight of the game’s final nine points.
“They had some momentum,” Hartland’s Anna Storm said. “But toward the end we started playing well and we took that momentum into the third game.”
And, after a 6-1 Hartland start, the Eagles put a stranglehold on that game and finished off the sweep.
“It felt good to get the win,” Storm said. “I thought we played a consistent game and hopefully we can carry that to Wednesday.”
Skinner finished with 17 kills, three aces and a pair of digs for Hartland, while Sara Jensen had 27 assists. Storm had nine digs and Julia Jensen seven kills.
For Brighton, Patterson had 19 assists, Cora Pietila nine digs and Cori Crocker seven kills.
Hartland takes on South Lyon in the nightcap Wednesday, after the 5 p.m. opener between Howell and Milford.
“They’re a good team,” Westenberg said. “We’ve played them twice. They have a big middle (hitter) who’s good, and they’ve beaten some solid teams.”
As for Monday’s game, she said it was part of her team’s checklist.
“It was a nice little redemption game from last year (when Brighton won in the district finals),” Westenberg said. “It was good, but I know the girls are focused won winning the district, not just beating Brighton.”