CONSTANTINE, MI. — The Bronson Lady Vikings always seem to rise to the occasion when it comes to playing in the postseason, and it turns out this year is no different. On Thursday night, the Bronson Vikings battled back from an early one-set deficit to defeat the Centerville Lady Bulldogs in four intense sets, claiming the MHSAA Division Three District 80 championship in the process thanks to scores of 18-25, 25-18, 25-23, and 25-21.
“I really don’t know what we did right tonight, but I can tell you we only served 82% as a team and a varsity team served 82% and getting a win is tough,” Bronson’s head coach Jean LaClair said. “I will say that Brealyn (Lasky) really took charge of the game tonight and put our middle hitters in the game with some really tough passes. She was setting up 12 feet from the net and still setting them up well. Once she started getting our media back in the game, that’s when things changed for us. We really struggled to get through tonight and Centerville is a really good team and we knew that. In the end, we were the lucky ones who came out with the win tonight.”
Bronson actually led things early, jumping out to a quick four-point lead, only to see Centerville claw their way back to tie the score at 6-6. Turns out this wouldn’t be the last time one team would see the other battle it out and even the score.
Centerville began to wrest control of the first set from her and managed to build a 13-10 lead, the biggest of the first set, with an absolutely booming kill of Centreville’s Adalae Hackett, forcing Bronson to take a timeout.
The Bulldogs would hold a steady two-point lead for much of the rest of the set until Bronson managed to tie the score again at 17-17. Centerville turned it on after that, controlling the rest of the set as they wrapped up the first set victory with an 8-1 run, taking the first set and the early lead 25-18.
It was Centreville’s turn to lead things early, as the Bulldogs managed to build an early 3-1 lead in the second set, one that would not hold for long. Bronson quickly tied the score and the teams proceeded to trade point for point, with each squad taking turns taking the lead. Bronson was able to take control of the second set with the score tied at 17-17, starting with a quick two-point flurry that gave the Vikings a 19-17 lead, forcing a Centerville timeout. The timeout only emboldened Bronson who, behind solid serving from sophomore Jaiden Hayes and some big hits from his middle batsmen, finished the set on an 8-1 run. Another booming kill from the front row by Bronson ended the second set, giving the Vikings a 25-18 victory, tying the match at one set apiece.
The third set also saw the Bulldogs gain an early lead as Centerville led Bronson 6-1 in the opening moments, leading to an early Bronson timeout. As they had done all night, the Vikings fought back, closing within 6-5. Centerville again rattled off a solid run, outscoring the Vikings on a 4-0 run to lead 10-6, only to see the Vikings grab back, moving up to a single point at 11-10, forcing a timeout of bulldog
Once again, the teams traded points midway through the set, with Bronson taking his first lead at 17-16 thanks to a big payton Springstead kill, leading to a Bulldog timeout. The teams again traded intense points throughout the rest of the set, with Bronson seemingly taking control at 22-20, only to see Centerville struggle again at 22-22. After two straight kills in Springstead set up set point at 24-22 for the Vikings, it was finally a Kaylee Wilber kill that ended things for Bronson, giving the purple and gold a 25-23 win at the third set and a two-set lead. heading to the fourth set.
A new set, the same old story, as Centerville jumped out to an early lead in the fourth set, building an early 4-0 lead, a lead that would carry over to an 11-7 lead midway through the set. Bronson finally found his footing on offense and battled back, quickly knotting the score at 11-11 thanks to huge spikes from the front row, key digs from the back row and some precise serving from setter Brealyn Lasky. Bronson eventually took his first lead of the set at 12-11, leading to a Centerville timeout.
The second half of the fourth set was some of the most back-and-forth volleyball seen east of the Mississippi, with both teams trading point after point. Bronson went on a 3-0 run to extend his lead to 16-14, only to see Centerville bounce back. The Vikings pulled off a key run, riding a 3-1 run, building a 19-15 lead before the Bulldogs responded again, coming back to within a single point at 20-19, leading to a Bronson timeout.
The break greatly favored Bronson, as the Vikings quickly rattled off one big point after another, grabbing a set point in the blink of an eye at 24-19. Centerville added a couple of points to pull within 24-21, but sadly the night belonged to the Vikings. After a lengthy fight for game point, the district championship point came from an acrobatic bunt by Lasky that saw the youngster tip the ball back, freezing Bulldog’s defense. The ball fell silently to the ground and the crowd erupted as Bronson clinched the Division Three District 80 championship with victory in four sets, winning the fourth set 25-21.
“I told the girls after the first set that we lost the first game against St. Phil a week ago and we were able to come back and beat them in four sets, then we went on and beat a very good Lenawee Christian team. . I was very confident that we had what it takes to come back and win tonight,” LaClair said. “We go to some very tough tournaments throughout the season to prepare for games like this, and I love the fourth- and fifth-set games throughout the year because that forces you to play from behind. We’ve done it a few times this year against some quality competition and I think it definitely helped us out tonight. It certainly wasn’t our best performance, but we kept fighting and kept our heads in the game. I am so proud of each of our players for how they did tonight!”
Junior setter Brealyn Lasky had an outstanding performance, leading the offense with accuracy and solid passing, registering 30 assists to go with an ace, six digs, a block and four kills, including the district championship clincher.
The sophomore middle hitting duo of Aubree Calloway and Payton Springstead put on a truly dominant performance at the net. Springstead led the team with 17 tackles and a team of four blocks while Calloway added 12 tackles, a team of four blocks and a dig.
Aleah Brackett also added to Bronson’s championship effort with four kills, three assists, an ace, three digs and four blocks; Ciara Blankenship with five digs; Haylie Wilson with an ace and 10 digs; Jaiden Hayes with an ace; Kaylee Wilber with a kill, two assists, an ace and 16 digs; Kennedy Clemens with four excavations and two blocks; and Mya Webb with a dig and a solid portion.
With the win, Bronson now advances to the Division Three Regional 20 semifinals to be hosted by Coloma High School. Bronson will make the long trip to meet the fourth-ranked team according to the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) at the Kalamazoo Christian Lady Comets. The teams will meet next Tuesday starting at 7:30 pm The winner of that regional semi-final will go on to the regional championship to face #5 Watervliet or the winner of the Bangor/Lawton district championship which will take place on Friday night .