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Western Advances To Regional Volleyball Final

Western High School volleyball player Abi Wilcoxson hits a spike during the MHSAA Division 2 regional volleyball semifinal Tuesday at Onsted High School.  Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.

By Jeff Steers
JTV Sports

Last week Western High School senior Abi Wilcoxson broke the school record for most kills in a career.

On Tuesday, Wilcoxson proved she is more than just a middle hitter on the volleyball court.

Wilcoxson and six other seniors led Western to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 regional volleyball final with a 25-18, 26-24, and 25-13 win over Haslett at Onsted High School.

The Panthers will face Lake Odessa Lakewood in the regional final Thursday at OHS. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Lakewood was ranked No. 2 in a coach’s poll just before district play began.

Wilcoxson got her share of kills in the win, but showed a bit of versatility that most middle hitters don’t have. On one play Wilcoxson went up for a big spike, had it blocked right back to her about waist high, and had the wherewithal to hit the volleyball with her left hand. The ball got past two defenders and landed softly for a point.

“A lot of people don’t realize how quick I can move with my size,” Wilcoxson said. “It has been a huge goal of ours to advance through regionals and make it to states.”

The Panthers have a few steps left. With six other seniors on the team, they have made winning look easy for the underclassmen.

“They (the senior class) have taught the juniors and sophomores on the team what it is like to win,” WHS Coach Kellie Mulnix said. “It is a fun group … this team is very special.”

Wilcoxson has been playing with most of the same players since starting the sport in sixth grade. Last week she became the school’s leader in kills surpassing Stephanie Croad with 1,534.

She will take her volleyball talents to Western Michigan University next fall.

Wilcoxson tallied 13 kills, two blocks, scored 13 points from the service line, and had four aces against Haslett in the three-set win.

Haslett held a slim 6-5 lead in game one before Wilcoxson reeled off five points from the service line. The Panthers closed out the 25-18 win with kills by Delaney Cole and Chelsea Hurt.

Western appeared to be in cruise control in game two with a 22-11 lead. But Haslett stormed back to tie the score at 23-all. Kills by Natalie Shellberg, Wilcoxson, and an ace by Hayden Fortress helped close out the win.

The Panthers easily won game three as Wilcoxson recorded six kills and Hurt closed out the match with a pair of kills.

Western is not the only team heading to a regional final. Northwest High School advanced to the Division 1 regional final with a 3-1 win over St. Johns on Tuesday night at Battle Creek Lakeview High School. The Mounties will face Mattawan at Lakeview in the regional final Thursday at 6 p.m. Mattawan is ranked No. 3 in Division 1.

Vandercook Lake will play Hudson in the MHSAA Division 3 regional final at Leslie High School on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. The Jayhawks swept Bath 3-0 in the regional semifinal and Hudson defeated Hanover-Horton 3-0 in the other half of the draw.

The regional winners will advance to the state quarterfinals next Tuesday at various locations.

Janie Davenport of Western High School follows through on a serve during the MHSAA Division 2 regional volleyball semifinal Tuesday at Onsted High School. Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.
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