BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Lady Spikers proudly held up the MHSAA Volleyball District 13 trophy in the the Clarkston High School gym after a 3-0 defeat over Brandon last Thursday.
The Clarkston Varsity Volleyball team had a huge preparation for the Blackhawks as they opened the district playoffs with a 3-1 win over cross town rivals Lake Orion on Nov. 1
“Obviously that’s a huge victory for us,” said Kelly Pinner, head coach after the win. “We lost to them four times in the regular season but beat them when it counts I guess that’s what you are going to say. It’s such an emotional battle when we play Lake Orion anytime we play them. Either it’s early in the season for a tournament or if it’s for league. It seems the last six years we have been playing them for districts.”
She added with a smile, “it just feels great. It’s hard to put into words how great of a feeling.”
The first three games was a traditional Wolf/Dragon battle as they kept close to each other on the scoreboard. Clarkston took the first game with a 25-23 score with freshman Claire Nowicki finishing the game with two of the last three points for the Wolves.
Lake Orion won the next close battle also with a 25-23 score.
The Lady Wolves opened the third game getting the first point off senior Grace Kraft’s serve. Lake Orion followed it with scoring the next four points. Clarkston closed in and they kept the battle close once again.
Clarkston began pulling away at the 17-point tie mark as seniors Abbey Malinowski and Olivia Johnson help put the Wolves into the lead.
The score would tie again at 22 points but it would be the last time for the rest of the night as Nowicki scored the last point marking the third game in another 25-23 win for Clarkston.
The momentum changed for the fourth game. The Wolves opened the game with three points before Orion put one on the board. Malinowski followed it with two hits as Clarkston climbed the board.
“We got some momentum early and found some shots and some holes,” Pinner said. “I think mentally we got in their heads a little bit. You could see Lake Orion pushing. We had them against the ropes and they started to struggle.”
The Lady Dragons just hit the double digits with ten points when senior Corrin Gualtieri put Clarkston at 20 points. The next four points came from freshman Claire Nowicki, senior Kayla Luchenbach and Malinowski.
“Lake Orion is a great team,” Pinner added. “They were ranked No. 5 in the state coming in today (Nov. 1). They have been playing great volleyball all year. Their setter, their middle, their right side – all outstanding. We beat a great team. It feels great.”
Malinowski had 25 kills and 19 digs.
“She did great,” Pinner said. “She mixed it up and found all sorts of shots. Just the stuff she does away from the ball, too. She’s a great leader and great motivator those are things that helped us tonight.”
Senior Jen Chupinsky had 32 digs. Nowicki had 15 kills and Johnson had 11 kills.
The Lady Wolves continued with a 3-0 victory over Brandon, 25-13, 25-19, 25-14 for the championship title.
“District championship is what we have been talking about all season long,” Pinner said. “Definitely one of our goals and nice to have under our belt now. Our biggest thing now is we have a lot more we are hungry for. We don’t want it to end here. We know we are competing against the best in the state.”
She added beating Lake Orion helped the girls for the rest of playoffs.
“Drive and mostly confidence,” Pinner said. “We needed that for sure just to keep their mindset knowing we are right there with everybody else. There are some years in Class A there are only 2-3 teams who can win it. I think this year there’s ten teams that can win it. So why not us?”
Malinowski had 15 kills and three blocks against Brandon. Luchenbach had six kills and four blocks and Chupinsky had 24 digs and one ace.
The Lady Wolves opened MHSAA Volleyball Regional 4 semifinals on Tuesday with a 3-0 win over Troy. They play Marian in the finals on Thursday at Bloomfield Hills High School, 7 p.m. The regional winner moves on to the quarterfinals at Saginaw Heritage, Nov. 14.
“Take it one match at a time and get Tuesday under our belt,” said Pinner. “Our goal now is just to try to make it to Battle Creek. We are going to go one game at a time to get ourselves there.”