BELLAIRE — Rachel Witowski has done this since grade school.
But never in situations like the Bellaire Eagles faced Tuesday in a home regional semifinal against Mio.
Witowski took the ball from behind the line and began serving early and led the Eagles to 19 straight points to close out game one 25-10 and helping vault them into the regional championship against Leland.
Leland defeated Hillman in the first match of the night — 25-9, 25-14, 25-12.
"Going serves in a row has kind of been my thing since middle school," Witowski said of the streak. "Once you get going, you get into a rhythm and can trust your teammates to do what they have to."
Her teammates followed suit, leading to a victory over the Thunderbolts in straight sets — 25-10, 25-23, 25-11.
The Eagles fell behind late in the second set, but rallied for five straight points to close it out then dominated in set three.
"We are the comeback team," Eagles head coach Kelli Fischer said of the first two sets. "For some reason they like to dig themselves a hole and they tell me they like to give the other team a little bit of hope then yank it away."
Bellaire has been fortunate enough to host regionals the last couple years and the Eagles embrace the home-court advantage and hope it pays dividends Thursday.
"We are so excited for Thursday," Bellaire senior Keagan Fischer said. "We are going to come in with just as much intensity and just as much teamwork and enthusiasm. We are really going to focus on working as a team and staying positive."
The Eagles were led on defense by Fischer with nine digs and Sophie Rosiek with 12. Katie Decker added 10 kills, Libby Derrer pitched in seven kills and Rosiek six. Witowski finished with 15 assists and nine aces.
Their regional final opponent Leland Comets began the evening in dominating fashion.
The Comets led Hillman from buzzer to buzzer in all three games and looked like they were doing it with ease.
Things are beginning to click for Leland at the right time as they are no stranger to this situation.
"I was really pleased with the way we came out of the first set," Comets head coach Laurie Glass said. "I thought we were running our attack and doing what we needed to do on our side of the net. I think we took our foot off the gas pedal a little in the second set and that cost us a few unforced errors. After having a conversation, I think they came back out in the third set and did their job."
The Comets fell in this spot to Rogers City last season and made it a point to get to the regional final this season.
They played with an incredible amount of swagger and fire, something that comes from practice according to Glass and her players.
"I have a very competitive gym," Glass said. "Every one of our players is contributing to that. The starting side loses quite a bit against the kids on the bench (in practice). I could probably put six different girls out there and be pretty darn competitive."
That competitive spirit has been coursing through the Comets veins and senior Hanna Elwell thinks this is just the beginning.
"I think it is going to carry on throughout," Elwell said of the Comets confidence. "We have learned that tough situations shouldn't make us tight. Everyday in practice we are put in tight situations and that has put us in position that we are comfortable when it is tight."
The games weren't tight Tuesday for the Comets as they rolled through the semifinal, but that doesn't change the attitude they have going into the final.
"We are happy its at this point in the season," Glass said. "We are glad it is tournament time and it is do-or-die at this point in time. It lends itself to the already great excitement that a volleyball match creates and to throw that do-or-die mentality on top of it makes that much more fun."
The Comets looked like they were having fun while topping Hillman. They were led on offense by Elwell with 12 kills and on defense by Allie Martin with seven digs. Martin also put up 11 aces and nine kills. Senior setter Ella Siddall totaled 27 assists on the evening.
The Comets meet the Eagles in Bellaire at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Eagles have a tall order with No. 1-ranked Leland and coach Fischer has her girls prepared and looks to lean on the defense.
"Leland is always really tough to play because they run a fast offense," coach Fischer said. "We can prepare by knowing that we are going to have to move fast. Our defense wins us games, so we are hoping to persevere there and keep the ball off the floor."
As for Leland, they are feeding off of the recent state championship by the Comet's boys soccer team to help fuel their run back to the final four.
"They are really fired up," Glass said of her team. "The boys soccer team's state championship win made us hungry for our own. Not that they weren't hungry before, but it adds a little fuel."