By Darryl Warner
For the first time in school history, the Skyline volleyball team was playing for a Regional Championship. The only obstacle in their way was the very strong Northville Mustangs. Both teams won their perspective districts the week before and were set to move one step further towards a Regional title.
The Mustangs proved to be a team of talented athletes that did not fold when it looked as if the Eagles were going to come back and force a fifth set. Northville rallied from six points down in the final set and defeated Skyline in four sets 25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 25-23.
In the first set, the score remained tied 7-7, until Skyline scored three consecutive points to take a 10-7 lead. Northville would quickly answer with three straight points of their own and tied the score 10-10. Olivia Cristian scored a kill to take an 11-10 lead, but Northville would benefit from an errant hit by Skyline to tie the score 11-11. Northville would take a 13-11 lead after a block and Skyline passing error.
Skyline would fight back and tie the score 14-14 after Kendall Murray scored on a tactful block at the net. Northville continued to push forward and take a 16-14 lead after a tip and ace. Skyline would score on Northville mishandling a pass, but they would score four straight points to open their lead to 20-15. Skyline called time out but the Mustangs did not give up the lead again and won the first set 25-19.
Skyline got off to a slow start in set two and fell behind 5-2 after a service error and Northville’s scoring three of their first five points from their outside hitters. Behind the serve of Stacie Warner and the great offensive play, Skyline tied the score 5-5. Murray scored on a kill, but Northville scored four straight points off strategically placed tips and a service ace, pushing the Mustangs ahead 10-6. The serves of Maddie Sackman and blocks by Greta Schorer helped Skyline tie the score 10-10. Charging forward with momentum, Skyline would take an 11-10 lead following a booming kill by Murray.
Both teams continued to fight hard, scoring points back and forth. Led by the serves of Lauren Lee, the Eagles tied the score 16-16 with a Lee set to Murray. Not to be outdone the Mustangs pressed ahead and took a 21-16 lead. Skyline called timeout and benefited from Northville hitting the ball out of bounds. Skyline’s block landed out of bounds and a rotation error pushed the Mustangs lead to 23-17. A great block by Sasha Akuezue narrowed the score to 24-18. Despite Skyline scoring two more points the Mustangs won set two 25-20.
Desperate to win the third set the Eagles were no strangers to being down 2-0. In the past three weeks they have come back on two different occasions to beat their opponent in three exciting consecutive sets. Skyline flew out to a 3-0 lead, but the bend but don’t break play of the Mustangs tied the score 3-3. Trading points back and forth the Eagles tied the score at 6-6 following a kill by Murray. Skyline, not rattled by the comeback of the Mustangs, opened their lead to 13-7. The 6 point run by the Eagles was highlighted by a tip from Cristian and several errors by Northville. Sackman served an ace to open the score to 15-10. Once again the Mustangs crawled back into the game to narrow the lead to 15-14. The Eagles answered and maintained their lead at 20-16 after a Murray tip and an ace from Lee. Northville would call time out but they could not reclaim the lead and Skyline won set three 25-22.
While listening to coach Cristian’s instructions, the Eagles were setting their sights on another comeback. Northville opened the fourth set with a 5-2 lead. The Eagles fought back and tied the score 5-5 after kills from Murray and Akuezue. The Eagles continued to push forward and open the lead to 8-5. The Eagles continued to play hard and maintain a 9-7 lead behind the serves of Warner.
Northville tied the score 9-9, but Cristian would score on two consecutive kills to push the Eagles lead to 11-9. The Eagles caught momentum again and scored four straight points behind the serves of McKenna Pfeffer. Northville scored on a tip to the center of the court but the Eagles still had a 15-12 lead. The Eagles would score three more consecutive points after Northville errors and two kills by Murray.
Trailing 18-12 Northville called timeout. The Mustangs came out of the timeout and scored six of the next seven points and closed the lead to 19-18. The gym was full of excitement as the Mustangs wanted to close out Skyline, while the Eagles wanted to re-open the lead and take the Mustangs to a fifth set. The Eagles would score on a kill from Cristian but the Mustangs would score on two kills to tie the score 20-20. Both teams fought for every point, but Northville would take a 22-21 lead after the Eagles hit the ball out of bounds. Cristian would score on a kill and tie the score 23-23. The Mustangs would score on a crucial block to take a 24-23 lead and eventually win the fourth set on an ace that landed near the backline of the court.
Despite losing the regional championship the Eagles celebrated a wonderful season, finishing second in SEC Red Division, going undefeated at home in conference play, and winning their first District 17 championship in school history. The Eagles were led by seniors Olivia Cristian, Eve Palazzolo, Rin Sato, and Maddie Sackman. Congratulations to Coach Cristian and the Eagles for a memorable season.