Updated: Dec 6, 2022
With the district volleyball tournament less than three weeks away, teams are making their final preparations in hopes of prolonging their seasons.
This was the case for the North Branch and Croswell-Lexington volleyball teams Tuesday night as they met in the Pioneers’ gym. It was their second match within conference play, and the two could possibly meet again in a district championship on Nov. 3.
As they did in their first match back in August, the Broncos swept the Pioneers in three sets, however, Cros-Lex head coach Ryan Wilson said he was pleased with the way his team played and has progressed – even without two seniors.
“We hustled and that’s going to win us a lot more games than it’s going to lose us,” Wilson said. “It should give us the belief that we can come into matches with that kind of intensity and will to push ourselves. That has maybe cost us some matches earlier this year because we didn’t come into them with that.”
North Branch won the first set in dominant fashion at 25-9, but the Pioneers rallied in the second with a 4-1 lead to start, eventually falling 25-17. The third set finished at 25-14.
The Pioneers have been without senior middle Chloe Shaffer since mid-September due to injury and on Monday night, senior outside Kylee Stribling was injured as well, leaving Cros-Lex to come up with a new game plan.
“We had a specific idea of what we wanted to do offensively that we practiced yesterday, and obviously with an injury at the end of practice, we kind of had to throw that out the window,” Wilson said. “But with the same concepts of how we wanted to attack them offensively, we still tried to do that, and despite having all of our offense on one side of the court…I thought the girls did a really nice job of attacking the correct blockers and finding ways to get points.”
Part of that adjustment meant relying on sophomore middle Brooke Bolsby, who has been playing on the varsity level for the last couple of weeks in place of Shaffer.
“She had her best game of the year and to step up like she did, standing across from a 6-foot-2 middle, she held her own,” Wilson said. “She busts her butt to all of her blocks and what more can you ask?”
For the Broncos, their adjustments were a bit more proactive as they look to return to the Division 2 State Finals where they finished as runner-up last November. Head coach Jim Fish said his team is figuring out the best matchups for potential opponents in the postseason.
“[Our rotation] was new so we looked a little tentative,” Fish said. “We know who we’ve got to play to go all the way and we’re practicing for those teams. We know where we match up the best so we moved our girls to match up there.”
And while the Broncos may have played a bit more “tentative,” Fish said he’s confident with how they’ll progress – not just this year, but even into next season.
“We’re good this year, but we’ll be better next year. We still have 11 underclassmen,” he said. “We’re really strong now, but we’ll be stronger – if we’re healthy. This year we’ve stayed healthy, so it was nice to our girls play well tonight.”
Junior middle Kaela Chingwa had seven kills and six blocks on the night, while four other athletes added five kills each, making for a well-balanced attack. Junior setter Adrienne Greschaw had 30 assists.
The Broncos now stand 32-5 overall and are ranked No. 2 in the state for Division 2. They lead the BWAC at 10-0 and will travel to the 32-team Beast of the East tournament this Saturday. The Pioneers fall to 29-8 overall, 7-3 in the BWAC. They’ll get a chance to play Imlay City (7-2) again next Tuesday, Oct. 18, to decide who will finish at No. 2 in the conference.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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