MACKINAW CITY — The Onaway Cardinals Volleyball team has been crowned region 26 champions after defeating Rudyard 3-2. The win qualifies them for the state quarter finals on Tuesday.
The game was not the usual Onaway domination that we’ve seen most of the season. The Cardinals got off to a slow start thanks to the Bulldog’s middle hitter combo Rachel Beelen and Sydnie Zeeryp. Beelen provided a lot of offense for Rudyard while Zeeryp made it difficult for Onaway to to get anything to the other side of the net. Rudyard took set 1 25-14.
Set 2 was a different game for the Cardinals. Their trio of hitters, including Kennedy Crawford, Calley Selke, and Breya Domke started finding holes around Zeeryp. Setter Mallorie Neelis was able to spread the ball around to those 3 and dump a few second hits over the net as Onaway took a close set 2 25-23.
The third set was the Cardinals best. They made very few errors, passed well, served even better and finished their plays. Both teams played their best defense in this set. There were multiple plays that lasted over 30 seconds, but Onaway pulled away with a 25-19 and 2-1 set lead.
The Beelen/Zeeryp combo came back with a vengeance in set 4. The duo slowed down Selke and Domke’s outside attacks and only allowed Crawford to get easy tips over the net. The Bulldog offense also added some additional bite with Emilee Curtis while Nina Alpers continued dishing out difficult serves. Rudyard ties the game at 2 a piece with a 25-18 victory in set 4.
Set 5 started about as badly as it could have for the Cardinals. They found themselves down 3-7 in a set to 15. The Cardinals would rally to a 14-12 lead with Head Coach Steve Watson holding up a single finger and telling his players, “Just one point!”
Onaway won set 5 15-13 and clinched the 26th Regional championship. There wasn’t a single dry eye as the players were recognized and received their trophy.
Selke admitted her tears started a little earlier, “We were still on the court playing. I went up to serve and I was crying.” The volleyball team has not won a district since 2014 and is the first time in recent history that they’ll be playing in a state quarter final.
“We just made 2 less mistakes than them,” Head Coach Steve Watson added after the game. “I’m so happy for the girls to have found a way to win because I could easily be talking to you guys about a close loss.”
Watson also added that he’d coached in quarter final games before, but this game is among the most special that he’s ever been a part of.
Onaway faces Carney-Nadeau on Tuesday at 6:30pm in Manistique in the state quarter final. A win in that match advances the Cardinals to the semi finals, held at the Kellog Arena, on Friday at 2pm between the winner of Leland and Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart. The division 4 state final will also be held in the Kellog Arena on Saturday at 10:00am.
Mallorie Neelis: 6 kills, 27 assists, 3 aces, 10 digs.
Kennedy Crawford: 6 kills, 5 aces, 9 digs.
Calley Selke: 13 kills, 3 aces, 15 digs.
Malaurie McLean: 4 kills, 4 aces, 14 digs, 2 blocks.
Jordan Larson: 18 digs.
Breya Domke: 12 kills, 5 aces, 15 digs.