Chargers survive tough scrap with Rockets

Mindy Carls
After conferring with varsity coach Jack Wheeler, the Orion Chargers break up the huddle during the match with the Rockridge Rockets on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

After defeating the hosts 25-14 in the first game, Rockridge crept in front 16-15 in the second game of the varsity volleyball match on Wednesday, Sept. 15, in Orion.

But the Chargers are not accustomed to losing in their own gym. A block by Janel Cross and Alyssa Ellison tied the score at 16-16.

After two more deadlocks at 17-17 and 18-18, the Chargers pulled ahead to stay.

The hosts went on to take the third game 25-22. Rockridge scored the first point, but after ties at 1-1 and 2-2 Orion gained the lead and never gave it up.

Wednesday’s victory gave the Chargers a 12-2 record. They are 3-0 in the Olympic Conference.

“Rockridge played very, very well,” Orion coach Jack Wheeler said. “Obviously they were fired up and ready to play, apparently a little bit more ready than we were in the first game. Rockridge made some really good plays. Chelsey Widdop made some really good swings we couldn’t block or dig.”

Later in the match, the Chargers did a better job of timing Widdop’s swings, the coach said.

Orion led 6-2 in the first game, only to watch Rockridge reel off eight straight points to surge ahead 10-6. The Chargers pulled within two at 10-8 and 11-9, but then the Rockets outscored them 14-5 the rest of the way.

Wheeler made no adjustments for the second game. He simply told the girls to execute better and to concentrate on what they were doing.

“They didn’t need a pep talk from me,” he said. “They’ve got more energy than I do. They just needed to dial it down a little and focus.”

Fans witnessed 10 ties in the second game, before Megan Blumenshein’s kill gave the Chargers a 19-18 edge.

Playing better and better, Orion pulled ahead by five points. Cross tipped the ball over the net for kills that gave her team 23-18 and 24-20 leads.

A Rockridge violation provided the 25th point for Orion.

The third game was deadlocked only twice, at 1-1 and 2-2.

Orion eased ahead 4-2, and after Rockridge put its third point on the board Orion’s Kelly Hutton set the ball for Maddie DePorter, whose kill put her team up 5-3.

Moments later, Ellison’s kill allowed the Chargers to take a 7-5 lead.

With Sami Mitton serving, the hosts went up by five points at 10-5.

DePorter kills gave the Chargers big leads at 16-10 and 18-11.

Rockridge pulled within two at 20-18 and 21-19, but Ellison served Orion to a 24-20 lead.

Cross notched the final kill of the night to put a win into the books.

As the match went on, Orion benefited from the skills of Blumenshein and Jenna Nelson behind the endline, Wheeler said.

Serving first for Orion in each game, Blumenshein kept the ball in play with some zip on it, he said.

Blumenshein served the Chargers to a 3-0 lead in the first game, and she was serving in the second game when the Chargers built an 8-7 lead into a 10-7 advantage.

With the Chargers nursing a 19-18 edge in the second game, Blumenshein stepped behind the line and served the Chargers to a five-point margin at 23-18.

Nelson rotated in and served well, too, the coach said.

The second game was still in doubt when she took the ball with Rockridge clinging to a 16-15 lead.

Nelson served two points and left the back line with the scored tied at 17-17.

In the crucial third game, she was serving when Orion built its biggest lead of the night, eight points at 19-11.

For the night, the Chargers had six aces. Tori Matzen and Ellison had two each and Blumenshein and Nelson, one apiece.

Orion’s 25 kills were divided among Matzen and DePorter, six each; Cross and Ellison, four apiece; Mitton and Nelson, two each; and Blumenshein, one.

Mitton passed for nine of the team’s 19 assists, while Hutton had five; Cross, two; and Matzen, DePorter and Nelson, one each.

Orion recorded eight blocks, including five for Matzen, four for Cross, three for Blumenshein and DePorter and one for Ellison.

Of the 42 Charger digs, 13 were credited to Carine Christal, nine to Matzen, seven to Ellison, five to Blumenshein, three to Nelson, two each to Mitton and Hutton and one to Ellen Garrity.

Orion also defeated Macomb 25-14, 25-8 on Tuesday, Sept. 16, in the Bomber gym.

Hutton served five aces; Matzen, three; and Ellison and Nelson, one each.

The Chargers piled up 20 kills, with Matzen tallying nine; DePorter, four; Blumenshein, two; and Cross, Ellison, Hutton, McKenzie Bert and Nelson, one each.

Of the 18 assists, nine belonged to Hutton, four to Mitton, three to Cross, one to DePorter and one Ellison.

Matzen and Blumenshein blocked two shots apiece and DePorter, Cross and Bert, one each.

Ellison paced the defense with eight digs. Hutton chipped in five; Christal and Nelson, four each; Matzen and Mitton, three apiece; and Cross and Garrity, one each.