Defense fights for win
November 16, 2011 - The Lady Wolves found themselves among the final eight after their finish at the MHSAA Regional playoffs last week in Lapeer.
Sophomore Katie Chadwell blocks Midland from scoring a point in the MHSAA Regional finals last Thursday. Photo by Larry Wright (click for larger version)
After beating Midland 3-0 last Thursday and winning their second consecutive regional crown, Clarkston is continuing their path to Battle Creek for the MHSAA Division 1 State Championship.
"I have been saying all year this team has exceeded all of my expectations," said Kelly Avenall, head coach for the Clarkston Girls Varsity Volleyball team. "Going into spring ball and summer ball knowing what we had, being in the middle of the pack, I would be happy with it."
When the team opened the fall season with 25 straight wins, Avenall knew the team would be more than in the middle.
"It is our sophomores," Avenall said about Katie Chadwell, Franzi Loetzner and Brianna Frakes. "It is a very high pressure atmosphere to play in the OAA and have tough league matches day in and day out. I thought if the sophomores could handle the pressure we would be okay. They have not let me down."
"It shows our program is getting stronger," added senior Maddie Lightfoot. "Even though we lost strong players last year we can rally and come back."
A boost in defense helped in the win and saving some close points that could have gone to Midland.
"Defensive is definitely an attitude," added Lightfoot. "A lot of it is having the nothing is going to hit the floor mentality. Everyone went all out."
The Wolves' focus during the season were Farmington Hills Mercy and Birmingham Marian. Both taken out during the regional playoffs - Marian by Lake Orion and Mercy by Canton, leaving the remaining eight places to public schools.
"The door is wide open," said Avenall. "I think the mental block is off my kids' shoulders. Mercy is a great team and has only lost to Marian all year long."
"There have been huge upsets," added Lightfoot.
Lightfoot had 28 digs and four aces in the 25-21, 25-15, 25-13 win over Midland.
"Maddie played a great match - serving and digging," said Avenall. "It's funny when she was a sophomore serving was the weakest part of her game. She has gotten better and better. It was probably the shining moment in her senior year was to serve 13 straight shots like that."
Junior Rachel Dickerson had 15 kills, senior Stepanie Marani had 11 kills and sophomore Frakes had 28 assists.
Clarkston beat Flushing in the first round of the regional playoffs, 3-1.
They opened with a loss 25-18.
"After the first game we made some adjustments," said Avenall."In the first game we just couldn't get a block off them.It was a good wake up call for them. I don't think they were expecting them to swing at us like that."
Changing was the key as they went on to win the next three games - 25-21, 25-20 and 25-18. Marani had 17 kills during the night.
"They couldn't stop her," said Avenall. "She is in the zone right now. She plays hard. She plays smart. When you get her out there she rarely gets blocked and she is unstoppable. If we had to pass we did it to her. We got a kill when she was swinging."
Dickerson had 15 kills and Lightfoot had 28 digs.
"Dickerson likes to hit line," Avenall added. "Most don't and they were giving us line. She did a good job.
"I felt Flushing could have easily come in that second or third game," Avenall added, pointing out Flushing had caught up in the score both times and Marani and junior Sarah Bullen boosted the team in points for the win. "They had some rallies. They swung ahead of us. They are a great team."
The Lady Wolves headed into their Quarterfinals game against Canton on Tuesday with a 54-5 record.
The winner moves on to the semifinals against the Lake Orion/Macomb Dakota winner on Thursday, 7:30 p.m. The finals are Saturday at 2 p.m. Both games are at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
Check how the girls did on the The Clarkston News on Facebook.
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.