Pine River girls hope to take district title at home

LEROY — Pine River’s volleyball team has the advantage of being home in the Class C districts this week.

The Bucks will have to face powerful Beal City Wednesday in a semifinal game at 6 p.m.

“It’s been kind of a rebuilding year for us,” said Pine River coach Jana Dennis. “Overall, we’ve made the skill improvements we need to make. Now it comes down to implementing them.”

Dennis has seen improvement in serve receive. Against Beal City, “we’ll have to play a solid game,” Dennis said. “We won’t be able to make the little errors that we sometimes make.”

Pine River drew a first round bye. Beal City defeated Sanford Meridian on Monday for the right to play the Bucks. The winner of the Beal City-Pine River match plays for the title on Thursday. The Highland Conference tourney was at McBain Saturday. Pine River went 3-2 for the day. placing third in the Highland Conference.

The Bucks beat NMC 25-18,25-14; lost to McBain: 25-15, 25-22; defeated Marion 25-16, 14-25, 15-11, beat NMC in a rematch, 25-19, 18-25, 15-6, and lost to McBain 25-23, 25-18.

For the Bucks, Michelle Kelsey had 22 kills, 29 digs and nine aces; Kassy Nelson had 22 kills, 42 digs and seven aces; Paige Esiline had 15 kills, 11 digs and six blocks; Rachel Motzer had 12 kills, 21 digs and nine aces; Alexis Stokely added 71 assists, 34 digs and six aces and Brittany Davis added nine kills, five blocks and three aces.

“Defensively we played pretty good,” Dennis said. “Brittany Davis kept us in many games with her net plays and smarts. Our core defensive girls did a great job keeping us in games. Offensively, we struggled with setter hitter chemistry at times and our serving was a little down.

“We had some great rallies throughout the day but just couldn’t win many of them. Those things start to weigh heavily on a team. All their hard work keeping a play going and then ending up losing the point. Our goal now is post season. The slate is clean and our focus is now on districts.”

Pine River played McBain on Oct. 29 to close the regular season and lost in four games 20-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-20.

Kelsey had 13 kills and 13 digs; Kassy Nelson contributed seven kills and 18 digs; Alexis Stokely had 24 assists, 12 digs and two blocks and Rachel Motzer added 10 digs.

“In the game of volleyball, communication is one key to success,” Dennis said. “That was our undoing. We stopped talking and started to play it safe instead of playing aggressive. Game one had the intensity that we wanted but McBain did a good job of taking us out of our game. We just couldn’t find a rhythm after that.”