Royal Oak Tribune

Shrine rolls past Marlette to claim regional title

- By Jason Schmitt

If it seems with each passing match that Royal Oak Shrine’s hunger continues to grow, well, it does.

The Knights had won two straight regional volleyball championsh­ips heading into Thursday night’s Division 3 regional final at Bishop Foley High School. Anything less than a win was not going to satisfy them. The Knights were hungry for more.

“It was a part of our pregame speech, ‘You’ve got to want it more than the other team,’” Shrine senior libero Norah Tisko said. “And it’s not just about hitting it harder, blocking it or getting the digs, it’s about being smart and staying focused.”

That’s exactly what her team did, rolling out to big leads in each of the first two sets before completing the sweep of Marlette to capture a third straight regional championsh­ip. Shrine won the match, 25-11, 25-14, 2520.

“We stayed on Tuesday and watched Marlette play a little bit and they are a good team. It was electric in the gym so we knew what we were going to be walking into tonight,” Shrine head coach Annette DeMartino said. “The girls didn’t really have a lot of challenges in our district, so coming in here tonight, I think they knew this was going to be the best team we’ve seen yet. And we were really excited to come here and do everything we’ve been practicing all season. They were ready for the challenge and they showed it tonight.”

Shrine jumped out to a commanding 10-3 lead in the first set, thanks to five straight service points by senior Margaret Jones. Junior Alice Mikula and freshman Mya LaChance had kills during the run, which began with an ace by Jones. The Knights used an 11-3 run to close out the first set.

The Knights built a 12-2 lead to open the second set. Sophomore Lucy Kerr served up eight straight points during the run, which was bookended by a pair of kills by Jones.

The Red Raiders scored first in the third set and built an early 5-2 lead thanks to an ace from junior Delaney Gage. But the lead didn’t last long. Jones had a kill which kickstarte­d an 8-2 run which included a pair of kills by Mikula. Marlette kept it close but the Knights closed the match out with a 6-2 run.

“They came out with a lot of energy and were hitting the ball hard,” Marlette head coach Brandi Bishop said of the Knights. “They’ve been here before. They’ve had more experi

ence. We had a good practice yesterday and we were working on hitting out of the middle because we knew their two middles were their hardest hitters. Communicat­ion is our biggest thing and we knew it was going to be real loud in here. It was hard to hear. We couldn’t hear each other.”

Jones (nine kills) and Mikula (eight kills) led Shrine’s hitting attack, while Tisko (20 digs), junior Elena Gallagher (11 digs) and Mikula (10 digs) shined defensivel­y. Kerr’s 17 assists led the team, with senior Georgia True adding 10 of her own.

The Knights advance to the quarterfin­al round, where they will face Cass City Tuesday at Burton Bendle High School. Cass City defeated New Lothrop in three sets to win its regional.

Thursday’s regional final was the Red Raiders’ first since 2009, while it was the third straight for the Knights. DeMartino admitted experience was a key factor in the Knights’ victory. She’s hoping it will continue to play a role as her team makes yet another appearance in the elite eight.

“This is the third year in a row that we’ve made it to the (quarterfin­als),” DeMartino said. “My first couple years here, people would ask me, ‘Is the experience that important?’ and was like, ‘No, no, we’ve got the mentality. We’ve got the talent.’ But being there the last two years and knowing the difference of that (experience) does make, yes, it’s a huge difference of having the prior experience. Our goal this year is of course to win states, but this next match, we’re definitely going to push to get past it, because we’ve lost it the last two years.”

Tisko has been on the team four years now and knows what it takes to win regional championsh­ips. She and her teammates are craving a trip to Battle Creek in the final four.

“I think we have some built up, pent up energy, knowing we’ve been here the past three years and we’ve taken the (loss),” Tisko said. “We know we want to get past the quarterfin­als so bad. It’s been our goal. We’ve got to get to Battle Creek. We’re going in there with such a new mentality of, ‘Let’s do it.’ We’ve been here before and we know what we need to do.”

 ?? JASON SCHMITT — FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP ?? Royal Oak Shrine captured its third straight regional volleyball title Thursday night at Madison Heights Bishop Foley High School, defeating Marlette in the regional final, 25-11, 25-14, 25-20.
JASON SCHMITT — FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP Royal Oak Shrine captured its third straight regional volleyball title Thursday night at Madison Heights Bishop Foley High School, defeating Marlette in the regional final, 25-11, 25-14, 25-20.

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