By Darryl Warner
If you were not in attendance on Tuesday night at Skyline’s Eagles Nest, you missed one for the ages. The Eagles hosted the Saline Hornets, a team they have only defeated once before out of 23 meetings in Skyline High School’s 10-year history. Skyline also honored their four seniors, Olivia Cristian, Maddie Sackman, Rin Sato, and Eve Palazzolo. Both teams were full of talented players, exciting play, sportsmanship, tenacity, and grit.
Game one began with fireworks right from the start. The score between the two teams remained within one point until Saline opened the lead to 10-7 after scoring three straight points off kills and blocks at the net. With offense from Lauren Lee, Kendall Murray, Olivia Cristian and errors on Saline’s side of the net, Skyline tied the score at 14-14. Both teams fought to take control of the game. but the score remained tied at 19-19. Skyline took the lead 23-22 off of a kill by Cristian, but Saline answered with two points of their own and took a 24-23 lead. Skyline scored two points on a kill by Cristian and a diving save from McKenna Pfeffer that fell to the floor on the Saline side of the net to go ahead 25-24. Saline answered again and took a 27-26 lead. Skyline tied the score 27-27 from a Lauren Lee set to Murray for a kill. Both teams battling for side out put the score at 29-29, but Saline scored two more points and took the first exciting set 31-29.
Game two, Saline jumped out to a 9-4 lead before Skyline coach Chris Cristian called a timeout. Skyline regained their composure reduced the lead to one off of a Murray kill, 13-12. Every point was a battle, but Skyline service errors contributed to a Saline lead at 23-20. With kills from Murray and tough serving by Stacie Warner, Skyline came close at 24-23, but Saline sealed the set with a tip to the left side, winning 25-23.
Faced with a potential 3-0 shut out, Coach Cristian and staff made several strategic changes to the Skyline lineup. Tied 4-4, Skyline scored three consecutive points, taking a 7-4 lead on a Sasha Akuezue kill, an ace from Lauren Lee and a Murray block at the net. Trading points back and forth, Skyline maintained their lead at 13-11 on a tip from Greta Schorer. Another three-point run from Skyline and a point on a Saline rotation error and the score stood at 17-11. After Saline scored on one of their many tips to the center of the court, to close the score 18-14 Coach Cristian subbed in Stacie Warner to bolster their serving and she came through with an ace. Saline closed the score to 19-18 and Skyline called an effective timeout as Saline committed its first service error and Maddie Sackman answered with an ace of her own to take a 21-18 lead. Skyline scored on a great connection from Lee to Cristian and the kill forced a Saline timeout at 22-18. The battle for the last few points ended in a set three 25-21win for Skyline on a Kendall Murry kill.
Skyline entered game four with momentum on their side and kept the score 5-5 before the overhead lights in the Eagles gym caused a short game delay. Lights back on and the match continued, an intense fight for every point and still tied up at 12-12. Skyline went on a four consecutive point run off kills from Cristian and Murray and two Saline errors for a 16-12 lead. A kill from Akuezue and a Saline rotation error pushed the lead to 18-13. With more points tipping to the middle, Saline closed the gap to 23-21 and Skyline called timeout. But Skyline would not give up the lead and won game four 25-23.
Either team needed to score only 15 points away to seal the victory in game 5 and Skyline, energized by the crowd, jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Saline regrouped, closed the score to 5-4 and Skyline called timeout. Skyline came out of the timeout with a kill from Murray opening the lead to 6-4. Saline answered with a kill to the back line. Murray sliced a kill down the line and the score sat at 7-5. A difficult serve from Warner put Saline out of system and Skyline led 8-5. Saline answered with three consecutive points and tied the score 8-8. Kills from Cristian, Murray and a tip kill by Lee opened the lead to 13-10. Saline would battle to the end but Skyline would not be out done and took set five 15-12 on a Murray kill.
With the stats extremely close in several categories, the difference was Skyline’s hitting percentage of 0.328 (84 kills) compared to Saline at 0.291 (75 kills). Skyline was led in hitting by Kendall Murry with a phenomenal 44 kills and 0.419 hitting percentage and Olivia Cristian hitting 0.290 with 26 kills. McKenna Pfeffer led in digs with 20 and Maddie Sackman added 12. Lauren Lee contributed 111 assists and Stacie Warner 43 for a complete team effort from the Skyline squad. A shout out to Saline seniors Brianna Woods with 20 kills and Olivia Vance with 17 kills on the night.
An amazing comeback after being down by two sets, Skyline’s victory was one for the memory books and secured them the current second place spot in the SEC Red Conference.
Since playing at home over the past two weeks the Eagles have a record of 18-2 sets. The Eagles take to the road this weekend playing in a tournament in Fenton on Saturday, Oct. 20.