CASS CITY — Just a few days after falling to its Greater Thumb West rival in the finals of a tournament at Essexville-Garber, Unionville-Sebewaing Area returned the favor to Cass City in a showdown of two of the area’s top teams.
The Patriots did what they had to do to stay undefeated in GTW play here Tuesday night, holding off a late Red Hawk charge en route to a 25-18, 25-14, 16-25, 25-9 decision.
USA (8-0) now holds a 2 1/2 game edge in the GTW over second-place Bad Axe (5-2). Cass City slips to 5-3 in the league.
Cass City coach Brenda Sherman was frustrated with her team’s lackluster showing in Games 1 and 2 when the Patriots took command.
“When you show up for one out of four games with teamwork and drive, you can't beat a team like that,” she said. “We are capable of more, as they showed last Saturday, but again believing in yourselves and trusting each other is key.
“We played hesitant and sluggish except for the third game when the girls pulled it together, but we were unable to hang on to it.”
Meanwhile, USA coach Teresa Rose was excited to see her team bounce back from the weekend loss to these same Red Hawks.
“Tonight was a huge win for our team,” she said. “We had just played and lost to Cass City on Saturday, so we knew going into tonight’s game that both teams wanted to walk away with the win. We just played really well.”
Once again, USA’s front row and defense made the difference.
Defensively, Calie Valentine led the team with 30 digs while Maddy Payton added 20, Ashley VanHoost 18, and Mackenzie Treiber and Erika Fritz 13 each.
“Cass City has big hitters and we knew we had to shut them down,” Rose said. “I think defensively our team played really hard. They were going for everything and trying not to let anything hit the ground.”
On the other side, Cass City hurt itself with several serve reception and passing errors in the first two games. While the Red Hawks were much better in Game 3, they seemed to run out of steam in Game 4.
“USA is a hard-hitting team with good defense,” Sherman said. “They have a lot of weapons and you have to be running on all cylinders to beat them. We got into our own heads instead of playing as a team.”
At the net for the Patriots, Payton paced the team with 11 kills while Sami Eisengruber and Miranda Fuerst added nine kills each, and VanHoost and Treiber six kills apiece.
“Our setters know they have to utilize everyone to keep other teams guessing where it’s going,” Rose said. “Having strong hitters every rotation is very helpful.”
Chelsey Bitzer led the USA passers with 25 assists while Fritz notched 12. Bitzer also had 17 points and two aces while Valentine chipped in 22 receptions, VanHoost seven points, Eisengruber 11 points, two aces and seven blocks, Fuerst three blocks, and Payton 15 receptions and nine points.
USA never trailed in Game 1, taking leads of 4-0, 14-9 and 22-13. Kills from Eisengruber and VanHoost closed out the opener.
Game 2 saw Cass City grab an early 4-2 edge, but USA rebounded quickly to gain control. Two kills from VanHoost and a Cass City hitting error accounted for the game’s final three points.
Cass City responded to its 2-0 deficit in Game 3, putting together a string of solid points en route to leads of 2-0, 9-4, 11-5 and 19-8. Kills from Megan Parrish and Jordyn Rasmussen, along with a pair of USA hitting errors, gave the Red Hawks the victory.
USA, though, came back and dominated Game 4, rolling to leads of 3-0, 9-4, 16-7 and 22-8. Payton earned the kill for match point.
For Cass City, Logan Rowell had 12 kills and two blocks while Rasmussen added eight kills, Parrish 15 assists and 20 digs, Stephanie Leeson 11 assists, Shania Chambers 20 digs, Carley Hendrick 13 digs, and Gracy Hollis one block.
Cass City, 19-9-3 overall, is off until next Tuesday when it hosts Bay City All Saints.
“We need to play better than that with the rest of league play and heading into districts,” Sherman said. “It can be done.”
USA, 31-2-4 overall, travels to BCAS on Thursday.
A few photos...