Bucks celebrate second straight district title

LEROY — Make that two straight district titles for the Pine River volleyball team

In the district final Friday night at Farwell, Pine River defeated McBain 25-14, 25-23, 28-26.

Chelsea Nelson led the Pine River attack with 20 assists, 14 digs, three kills and seven aces while Jessica Hoaglund had four kills and five blocks; Cayman Gatt seven kills and 15 digs and Kassy Nelson 13 digs and three kills.

“We showed great tenacity in our play tonight against a very tough team,” said Pine River coach Jana Dennis. “It was a hard fought battle and neither team stopped fighting. We capitalized on some key moments and this win was definitely earned.

“Our defense stepped up tonight and did a great job being vocal and helping our team to victory. Every single girl stepped up and did what they needed to do. It was a total team victory.”

The Bucks enter regionals at 40-12-5.

Pine River made short work of Clare Wednesday night, Nov. 2, at Farwell in the district semifinals.

The Bucks swept Clare 25-8, 25-14, 25-19.

“The girls came out with a much needed intensity tonight,” said Dennis. “They did a great job communicating and working as one on the floor. It was a great way to start our journey.”

With Chelsea Nelson firing her jump serves at the Pioneer defense, the Bucks fired out to a 7-0 lead in the first game. Jessica Hoaglund followed with three straight points for a 15-3 lead and Elizabeth Whitley added three more for an 18-6 advantage and Pine River coasted to the win.

“We’ve been kind of sluggish so we picked up our tempo,” said Dennis. “I did some things together that have been challenging for us. We’re pretty happy the way we played for the first (district) match.”

The second game was tied until two Sheena Vokes’ aces and a Hoaglund kill put Pine River back in front 15-12. Jamie Justin had a key kill at the net and Hoaglund served three straight points for a 21-12 lead. A kill by Cayman Gatt produced Pine River’s 25th point.

The third game started out tighter but a Nelson jump serve put the Bucks up 16-11. Gatt contributed a kill for an 18-12 lead. Hoaglund’s kill ended the match.

“I think we did great and did a good job as a team,” Justin said. “We came out intense.”

Chelsea Nelson had 28 assists, 11 digs and four kills for Pine River, followed by Cayman Gatt with nine kills and 12 digs, Jessica Hoaglund with six kills, 10 digs and 100 percent serving from the line, Kassy Nelson with nine digs and Christie Nelson with eight digs.

“Our serving is always strong,” Dennis said. “We played very good defense tonight. Communication was the key.”

“I’ve been hitting better,” Justin said. “This is my first year of playing of high school. I used to play in middle school and I like playing.”

Justin has been focusing on hitting and blocking.

“I have some improvement to do like working around the blockers,” she said. “I’ve been decent at blocking.”

“We all work together and don’t have any team problems,” Justin said. “We’re a pretty good all-around team. We need to keep ourselves intense and keep working hard.”

The Bucks were scheduled to be in Kalkaska Tuesday to play Inland Lakes in regional action. The winner was set to play the survivor of Tuesday’s Charlevoix-Forest Area semifinal match on Thursday in the 7 p.m. title match.

Dennis said the Bucks played Charlevoix in last season’s regional finals and won 3-2. Charlevoix had won the first two games while Pine River won the last three.

“They have everybody back,” Dennis said. “They didn’t graduate anybody.”

But the Bucks can boast that they have the Nelsons with sisters Chelsea and Kassy plus cousin Christie Nelson in her first varsity season as a junior.

The victory over McBain was perhaps one of the Bucks best performances, if not the best one of the year.

As a defensive specialist, Christie Nelson has had a strong season in the back row.

“I think I’ve done pretty good,” she said, adding that the team is hoping to enjoy as strong of a postseason as the 2010 squad that went to the state semifinals. “I think we have a pretty good chance if we stay focused and continue to do what we have been.

“I think we’re confident and ready to do what we did last year.”