BY DAN STICKRADT
MADISON HEIGHTS — A year ago Auburn Hills Oakland Christian was moved up to Class C after competing in Class D for nearly four decades.
The Lancers’ girls volleyball team won their first two matches in the postseason last season before falling in the district finals to Madison Heights Bishop Foley, ending a nine-year run of advancing to at least the regional round.
Oakland Christian earned a rematch with Bishop Foley.
The Lancers opened up Class C district play Monday at Foley and rolled to a 3-0 sweep of Royal Oak Shrine Catholic. Oakland posted a 25-21, 25-15, 25-17 victory over the Knights, trailing only briefly in the first two games.
Oakland Christian held a 16-7 advantage in Game 1, saw Shrine battle back for a 19-7 advantage thanks to a 12-0 run, then go on an 8-2 run to close out the opener. Shrine held a couple of early leads in the second game before fading away.
“We’ve done it all year long,” said veteran Oakland Christian coach Priscilla Larned of her team’s comebacks. “I’m not happy with giving up that many points at a time, but I have watched them in other games when they’ve gotten behind 10 or 11 points and come back and won it. We have been coming back on teams all season.”
The Lancers, who improved to 29-17-4 and will face Foley at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the second round, served up 19 aces as a team against Shrine (18-24-3).
The Lancers were not rattled after playing another vaunted schedule as a small Class C school that is just a few students over the Class D cutoff. Oakland Christian always plays big tournaments that even include Class A and Class B schools along with more suitable Class C and Class D programs.
“We’ve played such a tough schedule that I don’t think it bothers them all that much to be down because they have played some really good teams,” added Larned. “That prepares you for the tournament.”
Shrine could not maintain the momentum after its 12-0 run in Game 1. The Knights led 7-6 in Game 2 and never led in Game 3.
“When you’re playing a better team, you need to win the first game to put the fear in them a little bit,” offered Shrine coach Bill Wolf. “Serve receive was the problem. There were too many aces (on our defense).”
The third game was the final blow, as Oakland Christian calmly built a 19-12 advantage. A kill from Marcella Compeau ended the match that took a little more than an hour to complete.
Becky VanSloten was a Knights killer all night with 16 kills, as she has inserted herself as the Lancers’ go-to player on offense after following in a long list of All-State players. Compeau added 11 kills and sure-handed Erin Washington had 28 assists for Oakland Christian.
The Lancers, however, have thrived in recent weeks despite a revolving door of rotations and starting lineups all season and have consistently adapted. Oakland Christian is peaking at the right time despite the consistent string of changes.
“We have had so many lineups this year because of injury and ineligibility,” added Larned. “It was another different one tonight. They have reacted well all season long to my changes.”
Irene Peaslee had nine kills for Shrine.
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