Clarkston’s Rachel Dickerson (13) puts down a kill as Lake Orion’s Sophie Murdock (22) and Melanie Heath (12) try for the block during the first set of the MSHAA District 30 volleyball final played on Saturday Nov. 3, 2012 at Romeo High School. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
VOLLEYBALL: Clarkston tops rival Lake Orion in five games to claim sixth straight district
Lake Orion’s Sophie Murdock (22) and Clarkston’s Emily Malinowski (20) both go for the ball at the net during the first set of the MSHAA District 30 volleyball final played on Saturday Nov. 3, 2012 at Romeo High School. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Clarkston’s Katie Chadwell (8) gets a hit past Lake Orion’s Sophie Murdock (22) during the first set of the MSHAA District 30 volleyball final played on Saturday Nov. 3, 2012 at Romeo High School. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Clarkston players celebrate their 5 set victory over Lake Orion in the MSHAA District 30 volleyball final played on Saturday Nov. 3, 2012 at Romeo High School. (Special to the Oakland Press/SIDNEY SWART)
ROMEO — The Clarkston volleyball team certainly didn’t lack any motivation going into Saturday’s district championship game.
Naturally the Wolves wanted to win a district title and continue their season, but there was also extra motivation given their opponent, Lake Orion. The Dragons are the Wolves’ bitter rival and defeated them in the state semifinals last season.
Clarkston was able to exact some revenge, defeating Lake Orion, 3-2 (21-25, 25-15, 17-25, 25-23, 15-10), on Saturday at Romeo High School.
“This is our sixth district in a row,” Clarkston coach Kelly Avenall said. “All week long I tried to keep Lake Orion out of their minds. It’s one match at a time. Let’s worry about (Rochester) Adams. Let’s worry about Romeo. Then yesterday in practice ... that’s when we really focused on Orion and what we had to do.
“We talked about, we can’t get too far away from what’s made us good and our game. I tried to not to over-prepare against another team because we’ve gotten this far, I mean we’re 52-6. We’ve gotten this far. It means we’re good and we take care of the ball on our side of the court. I’m very proud of how they’ve played all season. This was a tough district to win.”
Clarkston senior Rachel Dickerson admitted it felt good to defeat their rival, but the team was more concerned with continuing their season.
“I think most of all we just kind of wanted to play our game,” Dickerson said. “Worry about our side of the court and not worry about last year or what happened before the postseason. Go out there and give it our all because it could be our last time.”
Dickerson led the Wolves (52-6) with 22 kills, including seven in the critical fifth game.
“Rachel’s one of the best swingers in the state,” Avenall said. “She really is. She hits the ball hard, makes smart decisions. If (Brianna Frakes) gets her the ball in her wheelhouse, it’s awfully tough to dig her up just because she puts so much on it. She puts a hammer on the ball. We ran a couple of quick things with her that worked today. She’s great. She is one of the best players in the state in my mind.”
Dickerson nearly does it all for Clarkston and since she never comes off the floor, playing both the back and front line, her presence is a constant for the Wolves.
“I think the biggest thing is since I get to play back row and front row, I need to be the one to step up and lead the team because people are subbing in and out all the time,” Dickerson said. “I’m always on the floor. I need to keep everyone up and going.”
Clarkston had a 21-19 lead in the first game before the Dragons scored six straight points and won Game 1 on a kill by Hannah Murdock.
A 10-1 run in the second game gave Clarkston a 14-6 lead. The Wolves never led by less than six the rest of the way, picking up the 25-15 win to even the match, 1-1.
The Dragons led the entire third game and Melanie Heath’s kill gave them a 25-17 win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth game was a back and forth affair that came down to the wire. A kill by Murdock tied the game at 23, but Clarkston was able to escape with the win after a kill by Sarah Bullen and a block by Katie Chadwell.
Dickerson played a huge role in the fifth and deciding game, coming up with key hit after key hit for the Wolves and leading them to a 15-10 win.
“We were just thinking games to five,” Dickerson said. “First one to five, first one to 10. Take it step-by-step to try to win the fifth game.”
The No. 2 ranked Wolves advance to take on Utica Eisenhower in the regional semifinals.
“I think right now we’re peaking,” Dickerson said. “This game, I wouldn’t say we were nervous, but we knew it could go either way. Now that we’re over this hump, I think we all feel like we can go anywhere.”
Senior Emily Popp had 29 digs and Frakes added 39 assists for the Wolves.
Murdock led No. 10 Lake Orion with 23 kills. Gabrielle Kulagar had 29 digs and Heath and Kayla Rockey each had six blocks for the Dragons (45-18).
“Hats off to Clarkston,” first-year Lake Orion coach Ross Talbott said. “They played really, really well. We knew we had to bring our ‘A’ game. I don’t think we really did. We had some game plans and we didn’t execute our game plan. We know how they play. We know their hitters, we know their setter, we know everything and what they do. We were full strength tonight. Clarkston was the better team tonight.”
Contact Dave Pemberton at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @drpemberton.