GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Lake Orion sweeps Oxford to set up showdown with Clarkston |
BY DAN STICKRADT
ROMEO — For three straight years, Clarkston defeated Lake Orion on the final night of OAA Red Division play to capture a conference championship. The Dragons suffered a five-game defeat by the hands of the second-ranked Wolves only two weeks ago, including a nail-biting 18-16 fifth game.
Lake Orion would love nothing better than to exact some revenge in the postseason on second-ranked Clarkston much like last year.
The 10th-ranked Dragons earned the right Thursday night in a Class A district semifinal at Romeo, topping neighboring rival Oxford in straight sets, 3-0. Lake Orion posted scores of 25-15, 25-15, 25-16 to dust away the upstart Wildcats in a march that lasted just over an hour.
Now, Clarkston is waiting in the wings.
“You don’t want to leave anything to chance,” offered Ross Talbott, Lake Orion’s first-year head coach who was an assistant coach on last year’s state runner-up team last season. “You have to come ready to play and I feel like we did that. We have nine seniors on this team who would love to (accomplish) what we did last year and they know that it’s not going to be easy. We are going to have to beat some great teams to get back to Battle Creek.”
Lake Orion (45-17-0), which will face Clarkston at 11 a.m. Saturday at Romeo, only trailed in the third game against Oxford (34-18-7). The Wildcats did tie the score at 10-10 in Game 2 and held four- and five-point advantage in Game 3 but could never sustain the momentum for long periods of time.
Oxford struggled on serve receive and failed to use jumping jack Darien Bandel on the attack to the amount needed to stage an upset.
“We worked all week long on knowing that they’re capable of winning matches, but they had to go out there and hold their composure and fight,” said Oxford coach Kristi McDevitt. “We did exactly that for (15) points, but then after that, they couldn’t do it.”
Bandel finished with 13 kills and 10 digs and Alyssa Wysocki followed with 10 digs to help Oxford build a 13-9 advantage in Game 3. Lake Orion answered with a 16-3 run to finish the set and match.
McDevitt realized that with a young team, defeating two Final Four squads from last season who are both currently ranked in the state’s top 10 would be a momentous feat.
“I would take (an upset) of one of them. If we would have won today, I would be a happy because my young team would realize that they could beat a top team in the state,” said McDevitt. “I’d take that. Beating two would be really hard, but when I saw draw I was hoping we could show up and beat one of them. We were going to have to play better to beat Lake Orion.”
Talbott said that he doesn’t mind facing Clarkston again. Lake Orion defeated Clarkston 3-1 in last year’s state semifinals and the two have played out multiple epic matches the past five years.
“With Clarkston, we know a lot about them and they know us, so I’m sure it will be a great game,” said Talbott. “The thing about Class A this season is that there are 15-17 teams who could get hot and win the whole thing. There is not one dominant team like in past years where you knew that only a couple of schools had a chance at the state title. Whoever wins our district will have a really tough road because there are so many good teams along the way.”
Tess Marshall was 21-for-22 serving with six aces, Hannah Murdock slammed nine kills, Sabrina Cottrell added 14 assists and Gabby Kulagar had 16 digs for the Dragons.
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)