Five sets seemed just about right as SEC powerhouses Dexter and Skyline met on the volleyball court Tuesday night.
“It was a huge matchup and we knew it was going to be a fight to the end,” said Dexter Coach D’Ann Dunn.
And it went right to the end in a back-and-forth, punch-counter-punch battle featuring two of the best teams in the area. Dexter took the first set 25-20 before Skyline evened things up with a 25-22 win. The Dreads won the third set 25-21 before Skyline again evened the score with a 25-19 win in the fourth set.
In the decisive fifth set, Dexter jumped out early and then Skyline battled back before the Dreadnaughts finally settled the evening with a 15-13 victory. Yes, close to the end.
“We knew it was going to be a fight,” said Skyline Coach Chris Cristian. “Dexter is a very good team. They are a very disciplined and hard-working team.”
Cristian was pleased with the way the Eagles played and how they never relented against a talented opponent.
“Our goal coming in was to control our side of the net,” he said. “We wanted to minimize the unforced errors and probably had a few more than we wanted to especially in that last set.
“But I’m proud of the girls. I think they know they played a good team and that we competed with them and that we’re a good team. We just need to keep working on the things we need to work on in order for these type of games to go our way.”
READ WeLoveAnnArbor’s opinion piece on the upcoming volleyball Districts
The Dreadnaughts, who play this weekend at the Chelsea Tournament before heading to Districts, played another solid game for a team that went undefeated in the SEC White.
“These kids play against each other in club and they know each other very well,” Dunn said. “It comes down to who has the bigger power and who can get around the block. We knew it was going to be a fight.”
The Dreadnaughts jumped out to an early lead in the opening game but nothing would come easy on this night. After the Eagles rallied to cut the deficit to 20-19, Taylor Venuto’s spike gave the home team a 22-19 lead. A spike by Olivianah Baugh brought Skyline to within 23-20 but Dexter put it in the books with a 25-20 win.
The second set was close early on. Kendal Murray’s spike cut Dexter’s lead to 11-10 and an ace by McKenna Pfeffer tied it up at 11-11. A nice tip by Dexter’s Brooklyn Brown made it 13-11 but the Eagles tied it again at 14-14.
A tip by Marina Gkovatsos gave the visitors a 17-15 lead. A tip by Dexter’s Venuto cut the lead to 18-17, but a block by Katherine Fehrle made it 20-17.
Murray then took over. The sophomore, who already has committed to Michigan, converted three spikes to give the Eagles a 23-19 lead on their way to a 25-22 win.
Game three was tied 8-8 and 17-17 before a tip by Karli Deutscher tipped Dexter to a 19-17 lead. Ahead 22-20, it was Venuto’s turn to take over as the junior had a monster spike followed up by another one that landed just inside the line to give the Dreads a 24-20 lead on their way to a 25-21 win.
The Eagles took over game four early on and never relinquished their grip. With Madeline Sackman serving, the visitors ran off a number of points to take a 12-3 lead as they looked to force a fifth game.
A spike by Venuto finally ended the run but the damage was done as the Eagles landed a 25-19 win.
Game five was a thriller but it didn’t start out that way as Dexter came out firing on all cylinders. A nice block by senior Jillian Kless, a spike by Venuto, an ace by Kless and a huge spike by Venuto all helped add up to a 9-5 Dexter lead.
A great tip by Brown and then a spike by Brown pushed Dexter ahead 13-8. But this wasn’t going to go down easy.
A tip by Murray, an ace by Fehrle and a spike by Murray cut the deficit to 13-12. Another spike by Murray cut Dexter’s lead to 14-13. But Venuto ended it with a spike that Skyline got a hand on but not enough for a return and Dexter took the final game 15-13.
The Huron Districts begin on Monday when Skyline faces Pioneer in the first round, the only first-round match of the Huron District. The winner advances to play Dexter while Huron faces Pinckney in the other semifinal game.
The finals are Friday night.
Dexter’s defense was led by senior libero Jessica Stout with 26 digs and 3 service aces.
The Dreads were led by Venuto with 23 kills, 4 blocks, and 14 digs. Brown had 2 service aces, 19 kills, and 8 digs. Deutscher had 2 service aces, 6 kills, and 2 blocks. Senior setter Alexa Bell, who committed to play at Wittenberg University, had 2 kills 5 digs and 47 assists.