By MIKE ECKERT
SUTTONS BAY — Leland and Forest Area opened their Class D district match with a long volley for the first point, which the Comets eventually won.
The rest of the match followed suit.
The Warriors and Comets battled back and forth, but in the end Leland came away with a 25-20, 25-19, 25-17 win Monday at Suttons Bay.
Leland (40-10-4) moves on to play host Suttons Bay on Wednesday in the Class D district semifinal.
"That is a very tough first round," Leland coach Laurie Glass said. "They just came back to (Class) D after being C for awhile and were very competitive. They had a great season, so the nerves were high coming into this game."
On the other side of the district, TC Christian will face Northport. The Sabres advanced with a 21-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-20 win over Grand Traverse Academy in Monday's first game.
The second game was highly contested right from the opening point.
"Early on, I think we had to get their respect," Warriors coach Ron Stremlow said. "They're there and we want to be there. Our kids fought, dug some balls up and it was like 'whoa.' So out of respect, we were right where we wanted to be."
"One of the things we knew about Forest Area coming in was that they just touch a lot balls, and they make you try to create shots that maybe you haven't been creating all season," Glass said. "So it was really important to focus on doing what we've been doing and just keep doing it over and over again. Because they were going to keep kicking the ball back to us repeatedly."
The first game was tied at nine different points, including as late as 19-19. The Comets, though, took a 20-19 lead on a Brooke Olesnavage kill and sent her to the serving line. Olesnavage served up two aces on the next three points for a 23-19 edge and Leland eventually won 25-20.
"Our momentum was good the first and second game," Stremlow said. "We got to 19-19 (in the first) and I thought 'Wow. This is just like heavyweights feeling each other out.' They just had the right player serving at the right time."
"When that first game went exactly how we thought it would, I thought we might get anxious or tight, but we never did," Glass said.
In the second game, Leland never trailed, but never led by more than four points until winning the final four — thanks in part to a pair of kills from Noa Yaakoby.
Forest Area scored four straight points in the third game to close the gap to 14-13, but Glass called a time-out and the Comets responded. Leland won nine of the next 11 points and eventually closed the match on an Andrea Hunt kill.
"Andrea had a lot of swings and she was pretty effective," Glass said. "And she was going up against their biggest blocker in (Tabitha Cecil). I thought she was really effective going around her."
Hunt finished with 10 kills, eight digs and two aces. Olesnavage also had a big night with 13 kills and 21 digs, as well as five aces.
"Brooke has a lot of heat on her serve and it causes people to get back on their heels," Glass said. "And we have other servers that can put the ball where we want it to. That's just as effective sometimes as the big power swings. So we like a little bit of both so they can't get used to the same serve over and over again."
Sammie Sterkenburg had four kills, 15 assists and three digs, Caitlyn McKee had 16 assists and three digs, Maggie Osorio had 22 digs and Yaakoby had seven kills.
For Forest Area, Cecil had 11 kills and seven digs, Kourtni Birgy had 17 digs, Alyssa Birgy had five digs and a good floor game, Emily Gonyer had 15 digs and three kills, Jackie Hyatt had four kills while Megan Gifford had 20 assists.
The Warriors ended the year 43-13-1.
"The kids played their hearts out," Stremlow said. "We only lost to three D teams all year. Beal City is ranked third, Leland is ranked fourth and Onaway is ranked fifth. Laurie's got a great team. I was proud of our girls, I didn't think we backed down. For our team, we're one win off the school record. We showed that we've got a good team. I can't be ashamed of our girls in effort."
For TC Christian, a 25-21 setback in the first game to the Mustangs didn't get them rattled.
"GTA is a good school," Sabres coach Dave Frielander said. "They beat us the second time we played them, and they took three straight from us. We worked hard on maintaining our discipline, which we've had trouble with over the season. The girls never lost their focus. We also started turning our games into little mini games to five, which we've been doing ever since the last time we lost to them. So that's helped mentally."
Maddie White led the Sabres with 18 kills, two blocks, four digs and four aces. Laura Murray had eight kills, two blocks and nine aces, Mikayla Brett had seven kills while Aubrey Heersema had 26 assists.
McBain 3 Evart 0
McBain advanced to the semifinals of the Class C district tournament the Ramblers are hosting, sweeping past Evart 25-14, 25-8, 25-12.
The Ramblers (26-15-7) play at home again Wednesday at 6 against Beaverton.
Seniors Kylie Bos and Kate Overmyer paced the McBain attack with eight and seven kills, respectively. Sophomore Keiana Westdorp stroked five kills with two aces and was 12-for-12 from the stripe. Sophomore setter Meredith Hamlet recorded 26 assists and notched five aces. Libero Olivia Schmid made nine digs and Hamlet had six.
Onekama, Brethren win, advance at Buckley
Onekama beat host Buckley 25-17, 25-12, 22-25, 25-11 in a Class D district opener.
Brethren topped Mesick 20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-15.
Onekama will now play Bear Lake on Wednesday while Brethren faces Frankfort.