ONAWAY – It’s a tournament right before the postseason – and one that definitely has a postseason-type feel.
For the Onaway Cardinals, they’ve always enjoyed winning the Presque Isle volleyball championships against a couple of rivals over the years.
This year was no different for the Cardinals, who had to show their own resiliency in order to win it.
Despite losing a couple key players due to injury, the Cardinals did enough to top Posen (25-5, 25-10, 15-7) and Rogers City (25-19, 25-23, 6-15) for the Presque Isle crown in front of their home fans on Monday.
“This is the 14th year of (the Presque Isle championships), and I’m pretty sure we’ve won nine of the 14,” said Onaway coach Steve Watson. “They (the players) definitely get into it. That first set (against Rogers City) wasn’t going the way that we wanted it to, and then our crowd gets back into it and we start scoring. The rivalry doesn’t mean a lot to me as a coach. To me, it’s just, ‘Hey, let’s beat that team across from us,’ but a lot of these kids know each other from playing sports, from playing little league, to nowadays social media, too. They know each other, their parents know each other, so there’s a lot of that. People are friends and family and that kind of thing, too.
“That was kind of the idea behind it when we created it. It was something for the kids to shoot for, a championship that was local, and it’s been pretty good for a long time. We’ve had a lot of success with it.”
Despite rolling to an easy win over the Vikings in their first match, the Cardinals (17-17-1) went into their championship showdown against the Hurons without one of their best players. In the Posen match, senior Mackenzie Robbins injured her foot and wasn’t able to return to action against Rogers City.
However, the Cardinals played right through it and showed resolve, overcoming an early 11-4 first-set deficit and coming back to take a 1-0 lead in the match against the Hurons. The Cardinals sealed the title with a second-set win, but did watch another player suffer a setback as Trinity Splan also injured her foot late in the match.
While the Cardinals were victorious, their play was sluggish early on in the Rogers City match, which bothered Watson.
However, the Onaway players delivered for their coach when it mattered most.
“I give the girls credit for hanging in there and coming back,” Watson said. “My anger was up, and they knew it, but for whatever reason they started making less errors and playing volleyball again. Rogers City started making errors, we capitalized on it. We pulled ourselves back into it and got that first-set victory, so it’s just crazy how you can play so bad and then you can turn it around so quickly.”
Ema DeMaestri had a strong night for the Cardinals, leading the way with eight kills, a .471 hit percentage, six digs and three blocks, while Grace Watson recorded four kills, 28 assists, 10 aces and 10 digs, Aubrey Benson had seven kills, 12 digs and two blocks, and Sydney Peel tallied seven kills, two aces, 18 digs and two blocks. Sadie Decker and Ella Lintz recorded 17 and 13 digs respectively, Splan chipped in with three kills, five aces, six digs and two blocks, and Robbins rounded out the team with four kills and four digs before her injury.
Onaway will travel to Cheboygan to face the Chiefs and Kalkaska in a tri-meet on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.