October 24, 2012 - The air was tense as the Lady Wolves and Lady Dragons battled it out during their fifth game for the OAA Red league title last Thursday.
Katie Chadwell and Rachel Dickerson block Lake Orion from scoring. Photo by Larry Wright (click for larger version)
Fans watched in anticipation as Clarkston senior Rachel Dickerson scored a point off her kill over the net to put the game 14-13. One more point would end the game. But Lake Orion wasn't going to make it easy.
It wasn't until Clarkston scored four more points, the last two from senior Sarah Bullen, to end the game 18-16.
"It was a really good feeling," Bullen said after the game ended. "It was my senior night, and I really wanted to win. Everyone just needed to play perfect in the last game, which we did. We needed to keep our heads on and not make any mental errors."
Keeping their heads on resulted in Clarkston securing their sixth consecutive OAA Red title, and like last year against Lake Orion, both teams gave it their all for the crown in five games.
The Dragons won the first game after taking the lead 18-17 and holding onto it for the final score 25-20.
Clarkston was quick to grab the lead during the second game even though Lake Orion managed to tie a few times. Some hits from junior Brianna Frakes and Bullen over the net helped recapture the lead and hold onto it for a 25-11 win.
The third game was closer as the cross-town rivals battled point for point to the very end. Bullen scored the last point to give the Wolves a 25-23 win.
The Lady Dragons weren't going to go down easily and grabbed the lead quickly in the fourth game until they reached a 8-point lead at 11-3.
"I have worked with them for so long, and in their minds they knew they had to battle back," said Clarkston Girls Varsity Volleyball Coach Kelly Avenall. "They knew they could compete with this team. They knew they got themselves in that hole, and it's so hard at this level to fight themselves out of the hole. They knew up to that point they almost won the battle."
Clarkston did fight back starting with momentum from a serve from senior Kaley Konjarevich, leading to a kill from Dickerson and several more kills from Bullen to bring the team up to two points behind at 15-13.
The girls tied the game twice off a serve from junior Katie Chadwell, 18-18, and a block from Bullen to put it 21-21. Lake Orion pulled ahead to win, 25-21.
"We were playing great defense, and then we would do something stupid," said Avenall about the four games. "There were three points in a row we would just crash into each other. My heart was racing. We were able to battle through it."
Bullen had 29 kills and Dickerson had 23 kills. Frakes had 45 assists and senior Emily Popp had 26 digs against Lake Orion.
Popp was also 100 percent for serving, going 23 for 23.
"She was outstanding," added Avenall. "She played great defense for us. She really stepped up."
The Lady Wolves finished the OAA Red undefeated in their eight games.
They head to the Andover tournament this Saturday with a 43-6-1 record and begin playoffs next week. They play Rochester Adams on Tuesday in the first round of the MHSAA Districts.
"The league is a big preparation for the playoffs - the pressure they felt, the way they stayed in it against a great team," Avenall said. "We have talked about if we want to win this league to battle a good team. This team is great because they never get down. There were a few moments I saw it on their faces but it erased real quick. The seniors were strong. It was definitely good preparation."
Bullen agreed, adding it gives the girls confidence from playing close games and pulling through for a win.
The game against Rochester Adams is at Romeo High School, 6:30 p.m
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.