Hooley leads Dowagiac to 25-15-2 record in first year

EDWARDSBURG — The Dowagiac volleyball team gave perennial powerhouse Niles all it wanted before falling to the Vikings 3-1 in the Division 2 district semifinals Thursday night.

The Chieftains, under first-year coach Tony Hooley, finished with a 25-15-2 overall record.

That is the most victories for the Chieftains since Vince Strefling led Dowagiac to 19 wins in 2013.

Niles, the defending district champion, defeated the Chieftains 19-25, 25-22, 25-11 and 25-17.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Hooley said. “They came out against a good, athletic and well-coached team and went toe-to-toe with them. We lost some steam and confidence in the second half of the match, but minus a small rough stretch in the second set, we came close to going up 2-0. That might have fueled our game a little longer and put our opponents on their heels, but in the end, Niles came out on top.”

The Vikings would take control of the match after winning the second set.

Veteran Niles coach Jenny Nate used a timeout in the second set to get her team’s focus back, as well as its confidence.

“I think they came into tonight very tense,” she said. “They felt a lot of pressure. Finally, in that second set, I had to tell them relax. Be good teammates. The pressure is not on you. As soon as you relax and have each other’s backs and communicate, you will have this.”

In the second semifinal on Thursday, Edwardsburg defeated Wolverine Conference foe Vicksburg for the second time in three weeks 3-0.

The Bulldogs were the only conference team to win a set off the Eddies, who were out to send a message.

The message got delivered loud and clear as Edwardsburg routed Vicksburg 25-13, 25-11 and 25-12.

“I cannot stop smiling,” said Edwardsburg coach Sarah Strefling. “I wanted these girls to bring energy and that is what they did. I keep telling them that every time they step in here they need to fight to win. They are not entitled to a victory. We played great tonight.”

The Eddies continued that roll Saturday morning with a sweep of Niles for the Division 2 district championship.

Edwardsburg won 25-17, 25-21 and 25-19 to advances to Tuesday’s regional against Wolverine Conference foe Plainwell in the second semifinal at 7 p.m.

The first semifinal will pit Hamilton, who was defeated by Niles in the regional semifinals in 2017, against Lakeshore at 5:30 p.m.

Strefling is a graduate of Lakeshore High School.

The championship game will be played at 6 p.m. Thursday night.

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