Celebrating Class D district championships is becoming as much of a November tradition as observing Thanksgiving for members of the Huron Valley Lutheran volleyball team.
On Thursday in their own gym, the Hawks carved up Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, 25-8, 26-24, 25-22, in the district title match to advance to Tuesday’s regional semifinal contest at Plymouth Christian Academy.
It was HVL’s third consecutive district championship, all under the guidance of head coach Mike Dest.
HVL, which improved to 26-14-3, will play PCA in Tuesday’s second match. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes will square off against either Southfield Christian or Novi Franklin Road in the night’s opener.
All four HVL seniors – Madison Dest, Anne St. John, Nikki Alcini and Bethany Schaffer – played instrumental roles in the triumphant night as they took turns giving the Chargers fits with their potent blend of all-around skills.
Dest was the catalyst of the Hawks’ offensive attack, knocking down 23 kills, while St. John contributed 23 assists, 10 digs and eight kills. Schaffer added 12 digs while junior Ashley Setian had six assists and six service aces.
“Our four seniors have grown up together, playing volleyball with or against one another, so it was nice to see them earn this championship tonight” said Mike Dest. “They’ve all been key parts of all three of our district championships, but especially this year. They’ve really worked hard to get to this point.”
Alcini assuredly spoke for her three senior teammates when she said Thursday night’s crowning achievement was the most satisfying of the past three.
“All three years have been a great experience, but being a senior and playing a bigger role than I have in the past definitely makes this year the most memorable,” Alcini said.
The Hawks revved their engines from the get-go and cruised to a dominating 25-8 victory in the opening stanza. Dest piled up nine of her 23 kills in the opening set, most off of pillow-soft sets from St. John.
But just when it looked like the match would be a breeze, Inter-City countered with a strong response in set two when it rode strong inside play from Makayla Thoune and a series of acrobatic defensive saves to a 24-22 lead.
Facing game point, Dest called a time out to give his players a chance to refocus.
“When we came out of the time out, we knew we had to play as hard as we could and get the job done, no matter what it took,” said St. John.
“Anne’s our best setter and Madison is our best hitter, so we decided to go with our strength and we got the ball down twice to tie it at 24,” Dest recounted. “The girls did an outstanding job of executing what we were trying to do.”
St. John then closed out the dramatic comeback by delivering back-to-back aces.
The third set was anything but a cake walk as well for the Hawks, who surged to a 4-0 lead before the Chargers battled back to seize a 9-8 lead.
A Dest kill knotted the game at 9-all before Setian strung together five straight service points to give HVL a lead it would never relinquish. Things got interesting at the end when the Chargers sliced a 24-18 deficit to 24-22, but the hosts prevailed.
The Hawks managed to hold Thoune in check for the most part thanks to spot-on defensive efforts from Alcini and Schaffer.
“We knew she was a good hitter and that we had to play hard to stop her,” Schaffer said of Thoune. “We have a really good defensive team, so that definitely helped.”