Kaely Howard, middle, of Vandercook Lake High School returns the volleyball during the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 regional final at Leslie High School. Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.
By Jeff Steers
Two high school volleyball teams with a wait-until-next-year mentality – until recently – met for the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 regional title in Leslie.
In the end, the team with the biggest hitter won.
Hudson High School defeated Vandercook Lake in five sets, 25-13, 25-18, 12-25, 19-15, and 15-10, at Leslie High School on Thursday night.
With the win, the Tigers claimed the school’s first regional title after winning the first district volleyball title in 22 years.
Vandercook Lake won its first district title in 35 years in 2018 and repeated this year.
Hudson advances to play in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Adrian Madison High School against Monroe Catholic Central at 6 p.m.
Vandercook finishes the season at 35-10-4.
“These girls have worked hard to get here,” Hudson Coach Shelly Hoard said. “They are good at performing in their roles.”
Vandercook Lake Coach Kenny Brokaw said the Jayhawks did not show up until the third set, but proved they were battlers.
“It would have been easy to roll over and quit after that (losing the first two sets), but we battled back.”
Both programs have come a long way from the perennial door mats in each of their respective leagues.
Brokaw said the Jayhawks outwork everyone in the summer to get better. But they couldn’t stop the height advantage with Hudson having a pair of players over 6-foot-tall – including Callie Bauer who has verbally signed with Western Kentucky despite being just a junior.
“We knew we were not going to stop Bauer … we just tried to control her,” Brokaw said. “It was tough because our tallest girl is 5-8.”
Hudson had its way in set one as Bauer had five kills and twin tower Keely Hinzman had three blocks and a pair of kills in a 25-13 win.
Vandercook could not find the court with serves in game two. The Jayhawks knocked seven serves out of bounds in losing the second set 25-18.
VCL resorted to hitting away from the blockers and only missed on two serves in set three. Kate Leach came up big for the Jayhawks with six kills in the 25-12 win.
The Jayhawks jumped out to a 14-7 lead in set four, but had to withstand a furious rally by the Tigers to force game five. Annie Leach had four kills, one block and three aces for VCL in the 25-19 set four win.
But the hitting woes reappeared in game five for VCL with two bad serves and four hitting errors.
Bauer also kicked it back into gear with five kills – including the match-point winner. She finished the match with 30 kills for the Tigers.
Kate Leach finished with 17 kills for VCL.
Division 1 at Battle Creek Lakeview: Northwest High School lost to No. 3 ranked Mattawan 3-0 in the district final. The Mounties finish the season with a 35-11-4 record and their first appearance in regionals since 2001.
Division 2 at Onsted: Western High School lost in five sets to Lake Odessa Lakewood, despite winning two of the first three sets. The Panthers could not hold off the No. 2 ranked team in the state. Western finishes the season with a 44-5-1 record.