News Sports Editor
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena Community College’s Whitney Frazier attempts to block a shot during a college volleyball match on Saturday at Park Arena.
In a battle of strong offense against strong defense, strong defense came out the winner.
St. Clair used a solid defensive game to stymie the offense of Alpena Community College for a two-match sweep at Saturday at Park Arena. The Skippers took the first match 25-18, 25-16 and 25-22 and won the second match 25-12, 26-24 and 25-15.
The sweep extends the Skippers' winning streak to five. St Clair leads the MCCAA Eastern Conference at 3-0 and has already collected wins against two ranked teams this season- No. 10 Kishwaukee College and No. 15 Mott.
"Their big key to success is defensive structure. They passed up so many of our good hits that other teams would not have gotten to and it was frustrating us from an offensive standpoint, but we kept at it and we found the defensive holes," ACC co-head coach John Dietlin said. "We just couldn't find enough of them consistently to take the lead."
ACC (0-8, 0-4 MCCAA Eastern) played two of its strongest matches of the season, but wasn't able to put together a consistent offensive attack to challenge St. Clair. The Skippers helped their cause with a strong offensive attack. Several times, St. Clair attacks found a way through ACC's defense despite the presence of two or three blockers.
After the Skippers easily took the first game of the second match, ACC took a 5-2 lead early in the second game. The Skippers battled back, thanks in part to the front row play of Taylor Hornbacher, Katie Bearse and Jenna Gauthier and took the lead. The Lumberjacks went on a six-point run later on in the game to take an 18-17 lead, but the two teams kept the game tight from there.
The Lumberjacks nearly took the game after a three-point stretch gave them a 24-23. The stretch included two kills from sophomore Whitney Frazier, who led ACC with 13 kills. A tip from Gauthier tied the game at 24 and the Skippers won the next two volleys to take the game.
"The first game we started off kind of rough. But the second game and the third game they kind of came back after being down five or six points so that brought us up a little bit," ACC co-head coach Sara Parsons said. "But we need to start off strong and not so down."
St. Clair kept on the attack in the final game, with Bearse, Gauthier and Hornbacher leading the way. A four-point stretch, with two kills by Hornbacher and one from Bearse gave St. Clair a 16-10 lead. ACC had trouble getting shots through St. Clair's defense, which seemed to have an answer for their every attack. The Skippers ended the game on a 6-1 run that included a pair of aces from Rachel Kolar.
Hornbacher led the Skippers with 17 kills and added three aces and 21 serve receives. Gauthier, who was awarded St. Clair's Game Ball Award, added 14 kills, three blocks and 30 serve receives. Rachel Cooper helped St. Clair's offensive efforts with 30 assists and Arica-Rae Apsey added 20 assists.
Sandy Bischoff nine kills for ACC. Mary Myers had seven kills and Tiffany Nickert and Paige Vallier each had six.
The two matches were a marked improvement for the Lumberjacks, but Dietlin said the Lumberjacks still have some work to do to make their defensive game as strong as their offense.
"We passed phenomenally. We transitioned from our serve receive into our offense better than we have all year. We had longer, better volleys than we've had all year," Dietlin said. "We played really really well, it's just, we didn't match up in terms of, our strength is our offensive system, they're strength is they're defensive system, so it was a matter of putting it all together and they came out on top."
The Lumberjacks will play at Oakland on Saturday at noon and 2 p.m.