By Darryl Warner
The Skyline Eagles volleyball team won its first ever District title with a convincing three-game sweep of Dexter in the finals on Thursday at Saline High School. The Eagles flew over the Dreadnaughts in three straight sets, 25-20, 25-23, and 25-14.
Skyline’s reward for winning the District is a homecoming. The Eagles return to the “Eagles Nest” at Skyline to begin regional play at 5 p.m. on Tuesday against South Lyon.
Throughout the season the Eagles have relied heavily on the outside hitting of Olivia Christian and Kendall Murray. Even though the outside hitting remained a constant problem for the Dreadnaughts, the defensive play of the Eagles also was phenomenal in the District final. If you were not watching close enough you would have thought defensive specialists Maddie Sackman and McKenna Pfeffer still had their Eagle costumes on from their previous night of trick or treating, looking as if they were flying around with wings digging out kill shots from Dreadnaught super hitter Taylor Venuto.
In set one, Skyline scored their first point off of a Cristian tip to lead 1-0. Skyline and Dexter fought hard for each point until the score was tied 6-6. Skyline would win seven of the next nine points and open the lead to 13-8 after Dexter hit several balls out of bounds.
Following a Dexter timeout, Skyline won six of nine points to take a 19-11 lead. Dexter would not go away quietly as Camryn Fisher scored on a wonderful block to close Skyline’s lead to 20-13. Skyline would score four more points highlighted by a block and ace from Cristian to open the lead to 24-15. Fearing the set coming to an end Dexter would score five straight points behind the serves of Bethany Ankenbauer, closing the lead to 24-20.
But Skyline would win set one 25-20 after an errant serve by Dexter.
The first serve and volley of set two started with exciting offensive play on both sides of the net, but the winged arms of Sackman and Pfeffer put them in position to save three consecutive kills from Dexter’s Taylor Venuto. The defensive play of Sackman and Pfeffer helped Skyline fly out to a 3-0 lead.
Dexter would win a point off of a Skyline serve in the net. Skyline took a 6-3 following a kill from Sasha Akuezue and Cristian. Murray’s skilled serves proved to be difficult for Dexter as Skyline scored the next six points, two of which were aces and widening the lead to 12-3.
Dexter called timeout and closed the lead to 13-9 after an excellent block by Venuto and difficult serves from Elizabeth Gallagher. Dexter would continue to chip away and narrow the lead to 16-13 behind the serves of Abby Herman and two kills from Venuto.
Skyline would call timeout with the score 16-15, but Dexter would tie the score 16-16 after a hit from Skyline landed out of bounds. The score was tied two more times until Skyline took a 22-19 lead after a Cristian kill. Dexter made another charge, scoring four more points off the play of Venuto and Herman, closing the lead to 24-23. Coach Cristian called timeout and Skyline answered with a Lauren Lee set and kill by Murray putting Skyline ahead and winning the second set 25-23.
The entire Skyline team, huddled together before the third set, could sense what was coming next. Win the third set and earn the District title.
In order for that to occur the Eagles needed to repeat the same efforts of the first two sets.
Dexter, not wanting to lose another set, scored the first point behind the serve of Ankenbauer. Cristian would answer with a kill of her own tying the score 1-1. Dexter tied the score again at 2-2, but Rin Sato served an ace, putting the Eagles ahead 3-2. Murray would score on a kill and Dexter’s Venuto answered with two consecutive kills to tie the score 4-4.
Skyline would win nine out of the next 12 points opening their lead to 13-7. Akuezue would score a key block during Skyline’s run of nine points. Dexter’s Kaitlin Delacy would serve an ace to narrow Skyline’s lead to 13-8.
Skyline, not wanting to face another run of consecutive points by Dexter, ran off nine points highlighted by a Cristian ace, tip from Greta Schorer, and two kills by Murray. Skyline’s lead opened to 22-10. Dexter would only score four more points, and Skyline won the third set 25-14 after a serve out of bounds by Dexter.
The Eagles celebrated jubilantly and took hold of their first District championship trophy.