By Jim Newell
The Lake Orion volleyball team is on a roll, winning all six of its matches at the Novi Invitational on Saturday without dropping a set.
On Sept. 6, the team defeated Mt. Morris and Stoney Creek at a quad tournament at Lake Orion High School before losing to Mercy High School from Farmington Hills in a three-set match by a final score of 25-21.
Those victories put the Dragons at 25-3 on the season and moved them from fourth to third in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s rankings on Monday.
“What I really like about this team is our effort and our enthusiasm seems to be at a higher level consistently,” said Head Coach Tony Scarvada. “There have been times in past years when we would go up and down and our enthusiasm at times could wane, but we seem to have really good chemistry and enthusiasm on the court, regardless of what the outcome is, which I really like.”
Scarvada said the team has tried several different lineups this year, and has a player who has not played yet because of an injury, so he’s pleased that the team fights for every point, every match.
“We’ve had to do some different things and we’ve still been able to battle to a good record, play really close games and beat a lot of top-ranked teams as well,” Scarvada said. “I’m very happy with how we’ve been able to be scrappy and put wins together.”
At the Novi Invitational, the Dragons were undefeated, beating Plymouth Christian Academy, Cass Tech Lakeland, Ann Arbor Huron, Novi and archrival Clarkston.
Paige Briggs had 44 kills for the team, Kendall Robertson had 16 blocks, Illyria Kalaj had 70 digs and 11 aces, Danielle Sargent had 32 kills and 8 blocks and setter Wren Macaulay had 132 assists, 9 aces and 7 blocks.
And while the loss to Mercy might not seem like it could have a positive spin, close outcome actually does. Mercy is currently ranked second in the state and was a good test for the Dragons to gauge their competitiveness.
“I think the Mercy game was tough. I sat our best hitter because her hip was bothering her. So, considering that, we did really good. We didn’t handle the first ball very well, so our serve receive passing was bad in that match,” Scarvada said.
“But for us to play them that close and be that close to pulling out a win, that was a pretty good feat by our team. You’ve got to give Mercy credit, they served tough, but we generally handle the ball a bit better than them.”
OAA Red League Play
Last year, the Dragons lost the district championship to Clarkston in a tough, emotional three-set match. This year, so far, the Dragons have been able to beat their OAA Red rival three times.
While Lake Orion is ranked third in the state, Clarkston is fifth, so when playoffs come around the Wolves are still the Dragons biggest rival.
“I think the team to beat, always, is going to be Clarkston. They’re tough again. We’ve been able to play them a couple times this year and we’ve been successful, but both matches went three sets, so they’re always going to be a battle for us,” Scarvada said.
“Bloomfield Hills has some good talent on their team. They might be tough and catch you on a given night. But I think what it comes down to is playing our game on our side of the net against any team, and I like our chances.”
And while the girls have good chemistry and play as a team, some of the players have stepped up and taken a lead role on the court.
“Our biggest offensive weapon has been Paige Briggs. She’s been, by far, the player getting the most kills for us,” Scarvada said. “A little bit unexpected has been our sophomore lefty, Sydney Smith, who has provided a lot of offense for us. She’s currently second on the team in kills.
“Our setter, Wren (Macaulay), is, I think, one of the best setters in the state. She kind of holds things together and does a great job.
“Illyria (Kalaj), our Libero, she’s been solid all year for us. She’s one of the captains and is a good leader on the team,” Scarvada said.
The teams two other captains are Danielle Sargent and Wren Macaulay.