HASLETT – Slow starts have hindered the Haslett volleyball team this season.
According to coach Drew Dudley, the Vikings have had difficulty opening matches on the right foot, and it’s played a part in her team’s up-and-down season.
Haslett stumbled out of the gate against Williamston in Thursday’s district semifinal matchup, quickly finding themselves facing an 8-5 deficit. But the Vikings were able to battle back, and with the game tied at 16, Dudley’s team ended Game 1 with a 9-2 run.
It was all Haslett from there.
The Vikings went on to pick up a three-set victory over the Hornets, 25-18, 25-12, 25-20, to advance to Saturday’s Class B district championship at Haslett High School.
“We’ve struggled all year long winning the first game, then we’ll win the next two, and then struggle after that,” Dudley said. “At that 16-16 tie, I told them we needed to focus on keeping the ball in play and let them make mistakes before we get into our system stuff. …We capitalized on those opportunities.”
Dudley, who is in her third season at the helm, captured a Class B district championship in her first season. The following year, Haslett went to Class A and got swept in the district semifinals. Now, back in Class B, Dudley feels her team has a chance to salvage its season.
“(District title) has been our goal all season, and we’re peaking at the right time,” said Dudley, whose team finished fourth in the CAAC Red this season.
Haslett jumped out to an 11-4 lead in Game 2. Sarah Schmid recorded two kills during that run and Bianca Kinder, who finished with a team-high four blocks, had an ace. The Vikings continue their dominance in the second set when Lane Valley, who had a game-high 32 assists, handed her team a 20-8 lead after back-to-back aces.
The Hornets’ Maddie Watters was able to stop the 6-0 run with one of her team-high nine kills, but Haslett went on to close the set with a 4-1 run.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Williamston coach Sarah Conklin said. “I felt we played really well in the first set, but they just got on a little run there at the end. …Overall, we were positive going into the second set, and I think we got on that high and our momentum dropped a little bit. We couldn’t get it back until halfway through.”
Midway through the third set, the Vikings held a 14-13 lead over the Hornets before Selah Rowe’s kill ignited an 8-2 spurt for Haslett. Williamston was able to close its deficit late after putting together a quick 4-0 run, which included a block and point from Allison Peplowski, who had a team-high four blocks. However, another Rowe kill helped spark another run for the Vikings to close out the evening.
“We’ve been working hard on pushing through everything,” said Rowe, who had a game-high 13 kills. “In this game, everyone grew, a lot.”
The Hornets’ Alana Kemler pitched in with 22 assists and Brittney Daly had a game-high 10 digs.
Haslett will face CAAC White champions Lansing Catholic Saturday for the district championship. The Cougars defeated Fowlerville Thursday night in four sets – 31-29, 18-25, 25-11, 25-18. The semifinals contest was the third meeting this season between Lansing Catholic and the Gladiators, who finished second in the CAAC White, as both teams split the regular-season series.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.