Mendon’s frustration ends with three-game sweep of St. Philip

Leighton, Duchene critical for Hornets

BELLEVUE — Bill Trenary called his Mendon volleyball team’s 25-14, 25-18, 25-18 win over long-time nemesis Battle Creek St. Philip a project in the making.
St. Philip, which won 10 consecutive Class D state titles between 2005-2014, had defeated Mendon in the state quarterfinals the past two years before the Lady Hornets turned the tables in Tuesday’s Class D regional semifinals at Bellevue High School.
Mendon, now 41-8-6, advances to face Athens in Thursday’s championship match at 7 p.m.
“It’s great anytime you can win a match against St. Philip,” Trenary said. “It’s a testament to how hard our players have worked. It’s been a two, three and four-year project to chase this win down.
“Hopefully our girls will believe me now when I tell them how good they are. This team is very good.”
Mendon dominated play at the net with senior middle hitter Megann Leighton (5-foot-10) and freshman Hannah Duchene (5-10).
“Megann played really well and hit the ball everywhere. I had a pretty good match too. We’ve all been working on our serves in practice and it really showed tonight,” Duchene said.
Leighton came up with 21 kills, six digs and two blocks for the Lady Hornets.
“We had a lot of shots on the court that St. Philip couldn’t reach,” Leighton said. “I’m really proud of this team. There was a lot of adrenaline and energy. This has been years in the making. We found a lot of spots open on the floor with our serve and they were hard for them to handle.”
Duchene added 10 kills to go with three aces.
“I don’t know what Megann and Hannah had for breakfast this morning, but I certainly will be asking them and writing it down,” Trenary said. “Sometimes hitters have it and other times they don’t. They were dominant for us tonight. If they can repeat that performance we’re going to beat a lot of teams.”
Duchene and senior Kaley Smith played a critical role at the service line for Mendon.
Smith, who played a huge role in the back row as Mendon’s libero, finished with 27 digs and two aces.
It was Smith who bolstered Mendon’s attack early as she served five straight points to put the Lady Hornets up 5-0 to start game one. Leighton contributed six kills, including one that came on game point, and Duchene added four kills, while Smith served four more points.
Game two started out just the opposite with St. Philip (34-22-7) building a 6-0 advantage off the serve of Kameron Haley.
But Mendon rallied off the serve of Smith with eight consecutive points and key kills from Leighton and Duchene to take an 8-6 lead.
Mendon would eventually build a 14-7 lead after a Leighton kill.
St. Philip pulled to within two points, 16-14, on a kill by freshman Alexis Behnke.
Mendon regained control winning critical points off the serve of sophomore Amaijha Bailey and Aubrey Crotser.
Leighton ended the game by blasting a kill down the middle of the court.
The third game saw three lead changes before St Philip actual built themselves a 14-10 lead off the serve of freshman Abby Austin which included two aces.
Mendon eventually regained the lead 17-16 after Haley’s serve went long.
Cierra Nightingale’s kill into empty court on the left side gave Mendon a 22-18 lead.
The Lady Hornets closed out the match getting its final three points off another Nightingale kill, Plummer’s ace and hitting error by St. Philip’s Maya Segovia.
Senior setter Cassie Plummer was instrumental in Mendon’s success offensively recording 34 assists to go with one ace.
“Some of the things Cassie does on the court for us are amazing. She runs the offense well,” Trenary said.
Bailey contributed 11 digs.
Trenary also singled out the contributions of sophomore hitters Nightingale and Hayley Kramer who had key kills for Mendon during the match.
“Cierra and Hayley gave us a lift during some of those offensive lulls that we had,” Trenary said.
Mendon only missed one serve on the night. The Lady Hornets are serving over 90 percent for the season as a team.
“Our servers from top to bottom are tremendous. The competition on our bench is fierce. Everyone wants to get into the match to serve,” Trenary said.
Battle Creek St. Philip coach Vicky Groat praised her team and complimented Mendon on a great match.
“I feel bad for our seniors,” Groat said. “There’s no tomorrow for them. You want your seniors to be there (state finals) on the last day. We knew this was going to end sometime though. It’s disappointing. I don’t think we played our finest, but give all the credit to Mendon. They are an amazing team and always have been. Their two hitters (Leighton and Duchene) were outstanding. They have that tradition too in the volleyball world and came ready.
“When you can serve-receive and get the ball up its difficult. I don’t know if you noticed it, but we had a lot of kids playing scared out there. I just hope we go out and work harder for next season. We will be better because of this. The bottom line is that it’s just a game.”
Hayley had 10 kills and nine digs for St. Philip. Segovia and Kirstin Finnila added five kills apiece. Alex Pessetti added eight digs. Austin posted 15 assists and Taylor Pessetti had 11 assists for the Fighting Lady Tigers.
Mendon lost to Athens earlier in the season at the Union City Tournament.
“Athens beat us earlier in the year. It was an incredible defensive battle. When people think of good Class D volleyball its just dig after dig after dig. That’s how the match was for both teams last time,” Trenary said. “It should be a good match.”
Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or sports@threeriversnews.com.

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