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Big Reds bring big energy to conference play

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

The Port Huron High volleyball team extended its winning streak to 15-0 last night with a win over Port Huron Northern in the MAC-Blue conference opener. The Big Reds sealed their victory in just three sets, 25-19, 15-13, and 25-20.

Their strategy was simple:

Win enough serves

“You’ve just got to win five out of nine serves,” head coach Derek Arena said. “That's what I always tell the girls and they think it's completely boring that I say that, but if you win five out of nine serves, you win 25-20 every time and that's kind of an easy win.

“That means you can lose four out of nine, so there's really not a lot of pressure on them," Arena said. “I think they’ve bought into it so they don't get nervous. They don't panic if they lose a few points because we just feel we're good enough to win five out of nine just about every time we're on the court.”

Sophomore Brylynn Balon sets up for an attack.

That mindset played a big part in helping Port Huron secure the third set.

The Huskies jumped out to a 5-1 lead in an effort to prolong the match, and they maintained their edge until the Big Reds tied the score 13-13. Port Huron flipped the script at 14-13 and from there went on an 8-2 run. Northern called a timeout and rallied back for a bit, but the Port Huron momentum was just too strong.

“I think we just have a lot of chemistry as a team and we work really well together, saying, ‘Hey, we're down. We know what we need to do. Everyone needs to go out and do their jobs,’” senior libero Lainey Lichota said. “I think we're just really good at uplifting each other in our weaker moments.”

Distribute the ball

It was hard to miss senior Paige Zuehlke last night. Arena said he knew his team would have to adjust to Northern’s blockers, which meant less action for middle hitters like Ella Jacobs and Illy Williams. Zuehlke would have her work cut out for her on the outside, but with at least five kills in the first set alone, she did just fine as she totaled nine on the night.

“I just like to play it smart, and that makes me confident that I know how to work the ball,” Zuehlke said. “And my teammates obviously hype me up so then it makes me happy.”

After Northern adjusted for Zuehlke, it created a few more options for the Big Reds offensively.

“Once we loosened up the middle and they were cheating to go cover up Paige, we were able to get the ball back to the middle so it kind of played out played well,” Arena said.

Such as the winning point of the first set: an emphatic kill by Williams from the middle. Williams finished with seven kills and eight aces.

Bring the energy

Between the loud cheers, countless high fives, and the leaping bench, the excitement that the Port Huron volleyball team plays with undeniable.

The Port Huron High volleyball team celebrates after winning a point.

“It’s crazy. We have so much momentum this year. We all love each other and we're like family,” junior setter Jordyn Fiedler said. “I think we all just know what to do and where each other is going to be [on the court]. We're just a great team.”

Arena said the energy is authentic and natural – and winning 15 straight games doesn’t hurt either.

“It's kind of just organic. When we’re playing well and we're having fun, I mean, it's easy to get excited and to do those things,” Arena said, “so I think it's natural, but it's also the expectation at the same time. It hasn't been hard to get them to do what they're supposed to do because they're just having so much fun.”

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