Volleyball District Final: Huron edges Skyline in dramatic fashion


In the stands, the chants went back and forth between “Let’s go Huron” and “Let’s go Eagles.” On the floor, the action went back and forth between the host River Rats and the Skyline Eagles in a District volleyball final Friday night that lived up to it’s “too close to call” forecast.

The two teams split the first two games. Huron took game three in a big way but Skyline responded with a victory to force a game five.

And then things got really fun – or intense – depending on where you were sitting in the packed Huron dome of a gym.

As the headline clearly states, Huron won the fifth game to advance to Tuesday’s regional round where the River Rats will face South Lyon at 7 p.m. at Dexter. Novi will play Walled Lake Central in the other semifinal game that begins at 5:30 p.m.  South Lyon defeated Howell 3-1 at the Howell District to advance.

The Regional final is at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Dexter.

Headlines, however, don’t tell the whole story. So let’s try to do that here – you might want to buckle up.

The River Rats won the opener 26-24 before Skyline evened things up with a 25-22 win in game two. Then it got interesting.

Huron was game on in game three. A block by Fatim Diakite gave the hosts a 12-5 lead and back-to-back spikes by Molly Johnson pushed the lead to 14-6. A spike by Skyline’s Olivia Cristian cut the deficit to 17-11.

But Huron could not be stopped. A spike by Franziska Duhr and a spike by Johnson made it 22-14 as the River Rats took a 2-1 lead after a convincing 25-17 win.

If you thought the Eagles would just fly back to Skyline without a fight, then you haven’t been paying attention. The team that lost the first two games against Dexter in the semis only to win the next three wasn’t going anywhere.

A spike by Cristian made it 7-6 Skyline but a spike by Johnson made it 9-8 Huron. The Eagles then took leads of 15-12, 17-16 and 20-18. Every time the River Rats drew close, the Eagles made a play and kept their distance.

For example, an ace by Huron’s Joy Chen to cut the lead to 21-20 was answered on the next play by a spike from Kendal Murray. A great save by Huron’s Ella Schuster led to a point that cut the lead to 22-21.

The Eagles answered to make it 23-21.

A spike by Cristian made it 24-22 before a spike by Johnson cut it to 24-23.

The Eagles ended it on the next play for a 25-23 win.

On to game five and the energy in the game was, well, electric.

How close was the final game? Neither team led by more than two points until the River Rats took a 12-9 lead. In volleyball, that’s a long way.

A spike by Huron’s Olivia Plagens gave the hosts a 3-2 lead. A Murray tip tied the game at 3-3. A Johnson spike made it 4-3 Huron. A Murray ace gave the Eagles a 5-4 lead. Skyline led 6-4 and then 7-5 but a great tip by Duhr tied it up at 7-7.

It’s tiring just reading that …

After Skyline led 8-7, Plagens spiked the River Rats to an 8-8 tie. Huron led 9-8 and then 10-8 forcing a Skyline time out. The Eagles responded to cut the lead to 10-9.

But Duhr made a great tip play, perfectly placing the ball just inside the line and just outside the reach of the Skyline players to give Huron an 11-9 lead.

Leading by two, Huron’s Catherine Ryan made a great save to keep the ball in play which later led to another huge spike by Plagens and a 12-9 lead. As it turned out, that was the last play the River Rats would have to return.

Duhr took the serve and delivered three aces in a row – yes, three consecutive aces from the senior outside hitter – to finish things off with a 15-9 victory.

Programming alert: WeLoveAnnArbor.com will provide additional coverage on this game, its teams and participants over the next few days.

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