BY DAN STICKRADT
LAKE ORION — Coming off an emotional win over two-time defending state champion Birmingham Marian, Lake Orion volleyball coach Bob Howey did a throw a little caution into the wind Thursday night.
How would his team react after such a ground-breaking victory for his program?
“I didn’t think it would hurt us too much, but we were far from perfect,” he said. “But you can never be sure. I didn’t think it would be a problem with this group. But teams do get upset in the tournament.”
Lake Orion left no doubt in its Sweet 16 match Thursday and went to sweep Troy, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21, giving the Dragons their first Class A regional championship since the winter 1988 season.
Lake Orion, which fell from the state rankings last week despite a 52-12-1 record, advance to next Tuesday’s state quarterfinals at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore to face ninth-ranked Macomb Dakota, a team the Dragons had defeated at two tournaments this season.
“I think the girls knew what was at stake,” continued Howey. “They got the job done.”
Lake Orion had another balanced effort to put Troy away.
Shannon Murdock had seven kills, Taylor Hargraves added five kills and Liz Kalugar had five kills and nine digs for the Dragons. Dana Schrauben and Gwen Motley combined for 18 assists and Maddie Hutchinson had 11 digs for Lake Orion.
“It’s been a really nice season and we’ve come together as a team which is the big (key),” offered Hargraves, a team captain. “We have eight seniors and that helps with the leadership. It’s just been an amazing experience and something we haven’t had here at Lake Orion in a long, long time.”
Lake Orion lost in the regional finals to Birmingham Marian last year but were able to defeat the Mustangs in the regional semifinals on Tuesday. This marked the first time that they Dragons have ever played in two straight reginal championships and it ended a drought that was 23.5 years old, as volleyball used to be a winter sport until 2007.
“We’re excitied to play in the (state quarterfinals),”said Hargraves. “I know we all want to get to Battle Creek (for the Final four) and now we are one win from that.”
Sophomore Olivia Parks had 12 kills for Troy. Junior Nicole Hahn added eight kills and three blocks and senior libero Laney Hart led the defense with 20 digs.
In Game 3, Lake Orion raced out to a 12-3, only to see the Colts (29-14-4) slowly clawed back behind the play of Hart. The Colts, who had a major turnaround this season after going winless in the league last year with a first-round tournament knockout, couldn’t gain a set to bring back some momentum.
“Hey, we got a lot farther than we did last year,” said Troy coach Ed Rule. “I thought we had a nice turnaround season.”
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