Mattawan ends record-setting season for Vikings
MATTAWAN — A record setting season for the Niles Volleyball team came to an unfortunate end as the Vikings lost to Class A district host Mattawan 3-2 in the semifinals Thursday.
Coming off a season in which it beat last year’s wins total, Niles came into the district with something to prove and further increase its win total on way to play against similar SMAC opponent Portage Central.
The Mustangs beat St. Joe in the early semifinal game in straight sets.
Taking the opening set by a score of 25-21 and leading most of the way, Niles looked to out match Mattawan in the height department, as the Vikings recorded more kills and blocks in the first set.
However in sets two and three, Mattawan all of the sudden found itself up 2-1 and looking to winning the fourth set and sending Niles home.
“There was a lot of pressure tonight,” said Niles Coach Jenny Nate. “The girls are counting on their seniors. Counting on each other. I think we felt the heat a little bit there in the second and third sets while battling for every point against a good team.”
Mattawan would win the second set by a score of 25-20 and quickly take care of the third set 25-13.
With the Wildcats in control of the fourth set, Nate called a timeout with the score 10-5 and Mattawan with the serve.
“We had to remind the girls of what they were here for and what our mission was,” Nate said. “Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in what the other team is doing and I reminded them that we are not here to do that. We are here to play Niles ball. Just relax and have some fun.”
Right after the timeout, Niles would side out and then started to look like the team that won 48 games throughout the season.
The Lady Vikings would outscore Mattawan 15-7 to make the score 20-17. Each team would get a point back and forth until Niles got the match point to force a fifth and deciding set.
In the final frame, Mattawan took control right at the beginning winning the first four points and never looked back.
Niles was able to tie the set at 10 apiece before the Wildcats would score the remaining five points to win the set and the match.
“The girls came out tonight playing with heart,” Nate said. “No matter what happened throughout the season these girls always stuck together. They trust, back each other up, and support each other. They fought hard and put some points down.
“Even with the injury to our libero position Bre Love and the freshman Bianca Pickens taking her spot, the girls never gave up and stayed positive. That’s what it’s all about to me at the end of the day. t’s how you come through and fight through a long season, no matter what comes your way.”
The 10th-ranked Niles Vikings finished the season at 48-6-4, a record setting year.
MATTAWAN 3, NILES 2
Mattawan d. Niles 21-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-23, 15-10.
Lexi Smith 13 points
Carly Barton 10 points, 1
Bianca Pickens 7 points,
Bella Rasler 6 points, 1
Bre Love 4 point
Megan Kohler 5
Varsity record: Niles 48-6-4.