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Pioneers solidify No. 2 spot in conference with victory over Imlay City

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

The Croswell-Lexington and Imlay City volleyball teams came into the Pioneers’ gym last night tied for second at 4-1 in the conference. Of course, neither wanted to leave with a loss which gave fans quite an exciting match.

Cros-Lex claimed the first two sets, the Spartans rallied back to tie it in the fourth, and at the end of the five-set battle, the Pioneers came out on top, thanks to their impeccable and ever-present defense.

Cros-Lex's Kylee Stribling tips the ball.

“Our defense played amazing – out of their minds. We just didn’t let the ball hit the ground,” head coach Ryan Wilson said. “If we hadn’t played defense like that, we wouldn’t have won. We just defended the heck out of the ball.”

And that was exactly what Spartans head coach Rachel Van Dyk said her team will learn.

“Cros-Lex is an unbelievably scrappy team. They were picking up stuff and they weren't quitting on balls, and I saw us quitting on balls and letting stuff drop, which I rarely ever saw on the other side,” she said, “so that’s something we can learn from Cros-Lex. They were not quitting and I want to see a little more of that.”

The very first point of the match started with a long, back-and-forth rally that would foreshadow the stiff competition to come. The Pioneers won the first set 25-21 and an even narrower second set at 25-23. The Spartans were leading 15-7 before Cros-Lex went on an eight-point run to tie it at 15 apiece. The Pioneers then turned the table at 19-18 and went on to win from there.

Imlay City proved it wasn’t going anywhere, however, with a dominant performance in the third set. The Spartans went on several 5-0 runs to claim the set at 25-12, and then used that momentum to propel themselves to a 25-19 fourth-set victory.

Imlay City's Alyssa Evans gets ready for an attack.

“I saw some good things and I also saw some things we need to work on as a team,” Van Dyk said. “I was happy with the way we played in the third and fourth sets, however, we’ve been talking about sustaining a high level of play instead of being so volatile.”

The Pioneers started the final set on a 3-0 run and never looked back, eventually leading 9-3. The Spartans battled to close the gap to 10-8, but Cros-Lex managed to hold them off, securing a 15-10 victory.

“Winning the first two and then dropping the next two showed a lot of resilience to be able to come back and win that fifth game,” Wilson said.

Wilson credited his players' depth and experience for their success so far this season.

“That’s the nice thing this year, we have a ton of girls who can do everything. We have five solid hitters and fantastic defenders, so when it’s crunch time, our setter doesn’t freak out trying to figure out who’s on and who’s got it,” Wilson said. “She gets them the ball and we get kills because of the decision-making of our setter.”

Junior setter Annalise Weeder has averaged nearly 10 assists per set so far this year, helping hitters like Kobi Stribling, Kylee Stribling, and Isabella Edwards combine for an average of 2.7 kills each per set.

And leading the defense is senior libero Elara Rankin – a four-year varsity veteran with more than 215 digs and 370 serve receptions on the season.

The Pioneers are now 21-4 overall, 5-1 in the BWAC and Imlay City stands 11-4-2 and 4-2 in the BWAC. The Spartans will host a 12-team tournament this Saturday before returning to conference play against Richmond on Tuesday, Sept. 20, and Cros-Lex will play Almont that same day.

Here’s a look at the current BWAC records and standings:

1. North Branch 6-0

2. Cros-Lex 5-1

3. Imlay City 4-2

4. Richmond 3-3

5. Almont 2-4

6. Algonac 2-4

7. Yale 1-5

8. Armada 1-5

For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli

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