By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
CLAYTON — Eight in a row.
On Saturday night, the Miami East volleyball team swept the Williamsburg Wildcats in three sets, by scores of 25-11, 25-18 and 25-20 to win the Division III district title at Northmont High School and earn a trip to the regional tournament for the eighth straight year.
The Vikings were the underdog in the match, as they were the fourth seed, Williamsburg the third.
“It’s a good thing for us, we’re excited,” Miami East head coach Dan Peterson said. “That’s our eighth straight, and I think a lot of people didn’t expect us to be here at this point in the season coming into it, so we’re excited.”
The streak has become one of great notoriety in the area, and it also serves as motivation for the Vikings to live up to the successes of years past.
“We had our foundation laid a while ago with some of the players we’ve had come through, and it has continued with every year since then,” Peterson said. “Our players take a lot of pride in that too, because they obviously don’t want to be the ones to break that streak. It scares the crap out of me sometimes, too. I don’t want it to happen on my watch.”
Despite being the lower seed, the Vikings showed early that they were a force to be reckoned with.
In the first set, it was junior captain Sophie Jacomet’s turn to serve, with her team already out to a 4-1 lead. Her first serve was an ace, and she followed it with five more serves that led to points before the Wildcats would score again, and the Vikings led 10-2.
Jacomet had another ace in the sequence, and added one more later in the set. Her fellow captain, junior Gabrielle Hawkins, the Miami East libero, recorded an ace, as well, and the Vikings finished with four aces on the night.
“We’re not a very big team, so we have to serve to spots to be successful,” Peterson said. “We spend a lot of time in practice serving to locations, and it shows in the way we play. We call a zone and they hit it, every single time, so that’s obviously crucial for us as a team.”
After Jacomet’s run, the Wildcats were able to execute on a few points, but the Viking lead never dropped below eight points, and Miami East took a 1-0 lead with a 25-11 win in the first set.
Of the 25 points required to win the set, Jacomet was at the service line for nine of them.
According to Peterson, the long service runs that the Vikings achieved on Saturday are crucial to their gameplan.
“It goes back to our serving,” Peterson said. “We want to serve to where we can get free balls, and once we get free balls we know we’re going to execute them. That’s the name of our game, as this point. We want to serve to keep them out of system, and get easy balls for us.”
The Vikings found themselves needing one of these runs early in the second set, as the Wildcats exploded out to a 7-2 lead and held nearly all of the momentum. Luckily, Miami East found its answer in Ashlyn Monnin. Monnin, a senior, went on a four-point run to tie the set as Williamsburg was forced to call a timeout with the score locked at 7-7.
Shortly after, with the score still knotted at 9-9, Viking senior Delaney Bourelle served six straight points, and the Miami East comeback was complete. They’d go on to win the set 25-18 and were in full control heading into the match set.
The third set was largely uneventful, as both teams continuously traded points and serves, and neither side was able to gain much momentum. However, thanks to a few sequences of two-to-three points in a row, the Vikings were able to garner a lead, and would win the set, match, and district championship on a blocking error by Williamsburg.
“We had some film on them, and I think we kind of expected to come out and win in three,” Peterson said about his team’s performance. “I don’t want to say we dominated like we wanted to, but we played pretty well for the most part, and we’re happy about that.”
Moving forward, the Vikings will have a chance at redemption in one of the biggest matches of the year. They’ll be traveling to Kettering Fairmont High School on Thursday to battle a Versailles team that defeated them in five sets last season to knock them out of the tournament in the regional finals. Peterson said that the loss has been in the back of his team’s minds for awhile, and he hopes it will serve as motivation for the match.
“They’re a great team, we have a lot of respect for them,” Peterson said about the Tigers. “We’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the past couple of years playing so much. We’ll just go in, look at film and see how we’re going to figure out how we’ll attack them. But we’ve got a good group, and we feel pretty confident.”
Versailles, the No. 1 seed in the district tournament and defending state champion, features a towering roster, with four girls listed as standing at six feet or taller.
When asked if there was anything he’d like his team to improve on before their next match, Peterson hesitated before a smiled washed over him and he let out a laugh.
“We’re looking to get taller before Versailles, that’s going to be our first goal,” he said, jokingly.