Mendon spikers sweep Athens for fifth straight regional title
BELLEVUE — Mendon’s aggression at the net led the Lady Hornets volleyball team to a three-game sweep of defensive minded Athens 25-22, 25-17, 25-21 in Thursday’s Class D regional championship at Bellevue High School.
It marks the fifth straight regional championship for Mendon.
The Lady Hornets, now 42-8-6, face Plymouth Christian in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals at Climax-Scotts at 6:30 p.m.
Plymouth Christian defeated Lansing Christian three games to one in the Morenci Regional finals.
“Athens plays such good defense and is probably the best team in Class D that no one ever gives credit to. Year in and year out they are usually stuck in a district with Battle Creek St. Philip so no one really knows about them,” Trenary said.
“It’s frustrating to see your hitters hit the ball so hard and to see it come right back up to their setter. You can’t prepare them for that. It took us a lot of swings to produce a kill against them.”
Trenary went so far as to make the statement that Athens is the best defensive team his ballclub has faced regardless of class size this season.
“We play a lot of Class A teams. Our team won tonight because we have lots of weapons and a group of seniors that have decided they don’t like losing ballgames,” Trenary said.
“We found our aggression late, took our chances hitting the ball and said if it’s a kill it’s a kill and if it’s out it’s out. We took our chances and rolled the dice tonight. There’s a lot to be said by doing that.”
Senior middle hitter Megann Leighton had 18 kills, one block and three aces for Mendon.
“We started off swinging hard because we knew they had a good defense. We knew we had to be smarter and swing harder after the first game,” Leighton said.
“We really found our game in the second and third games.”
Freshman Hannah Duchene added eight kills and one block.
Mendon also got key performances out of its two sophomore outside hitters Cierra Nightingale and Hayley Kramer.
Nightingale had three kills and one block and Kramer produced three kills.
“Our hitters did a nice job of hanging in there. You have to just keep telling them to keep working off the net,” Trenary said.
Senior setter Cassie Plummer did a superb job once again of running Mendon’s offensive attack and distributing the ball from her starting setter’s position.
Plummer finished the night with two aces and 33 assists.
“Cassie has made us into a different team. Everyone knows about our senior middle hitter then we have a freshman and two sophomores. They work hard in their own right, but she (Plummer) has turned them them into bona fide weapons on the outside,” Trenary said.
Plummer was pleased with her team’s performance on the night.
“It’s 100 percent about supporting one another. For the most part everyone is just happy to win. It doesn’t matter if you get the winning point or your teammate does,” Plummer said.
Senior libero Kaley Smith, who has verbally committed to play at Western Michigan University, was the Lady Hornets’ usual sparkplug on defense with 26 digs and she had one ace.
“A lot of people wonder why Kaley ends up with a lot of digs. She just moves to where the ball is. You want your libero to be sort of greedy on the floor. I mean that as a compliment in the best way,” Trenary said.
“It’s hard for teams to run strings of points on us because our serve-receive is so tough. We get a lot of balls to setter and have the hitters to finish,” Trenary said.
“I thought we were a little tentative early in the match. We weren’t aggressive enough and quick on our feet and just kind’ve waited them out. Teams like Athens want you to wait. The mark of a good team is being able to change your style of play in the middle of a match. We were able to do that tonight.”
Smith played with her usual high energy.
“Matches get tight and stressful. Coach Trenary expects the upperclassmen to step up and that’s something we do well. At the same time we’re also trying to bring the younger kids up with us. That’s working real well for us right now,” Smith said.
“I work on playing with high emotion. I really hate losing and I like to win. I care so much about the people playing next to me on the court. It’s great because we’re always working hard and together. It takes grit and tenacity on every point and to never give up to keep advancing. That says a lot about our team.”
Athens, which finishes 27-19-7, got one ace, 14 digs and 18 assists from senior setter Josie Lamson. Senior outside hitter Tayler Eutsey added three kills, 14 digs and one block for the Indians. Rachel Nobach, another senior outside hitter, had two aces, 12 kills and 15 digs. Senior libero Aubrey Cole had two aces and 21 digs and Alexa Goss added four kills, two digs and six blocks.
“These girls fought till the end. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but Mendon is the No. 2 team in the state. We had beaten them earlier this season. Our defense was great tonight and they never gave up,” said Athens coach Jacy Cole.
“I thought we did a great job shutting down some of Mendon’s hitters. Our serve-receive and defense were good. We did a great job. We had some floundering moments where we had some errors and it took us a while to shake them off.”
Mendon found itself trailing Athens by as many as four points on two different occasions in the first game.
Leighton’s kill eventually tied the game at 19-19. Eutsey’s kill attempt flew long to increase the Hornets’ lead to two, 21-19. Plummer’s ace made it 22-19. Athens fought back to within two, 22-20 on Kara Waldron’s tip. A long serve by the Indians’ Madison Hoard put Mendon up 23-20. Nobach’s kill brought Athens within two again, 23-21. Kramer’s tip into the net brought Athens to within one point, But Leighton came up with a kill and Nobach’s pass went long to give the Hornets the final two points and the game.
Mendon trailed in the second game by as many as five points before rallying to tie it up four times before taking the lead for good.
Leighton recorded an eventual kill to out Mendon at game point before the Lady Hornets won the game after Athens’ Eutsey was called for being under the net.
Mendon appeared like it would roll in game three with an early 10-4 advantage.
But Athens would eventually rally to within two points after Duchene’s serve hit the net to lessen the Indians’ deficit to 16-14.
Following a long serve by Eutsey, Plummer stepped up and served four consecutive points to provide Mendon with a 21-14 lead. Nightingale had a key kill during that run as well.
On the final two points of the game and match, Kramer came up with a key block and Athens committed a hitting error.
Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.