‘On track’ Dakota beats Romeo in MAC Red volleyball game – Macomb Daily

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Few teams are better equipped to succeed in volleyball than Dakota.

The Cougars, hoping to go further in the state tournament than their trip to the Division 1 semifinals last season, have the steady, consistent passer and devastating batting corps found on teams that qualify for the final four in Battle Ruisseau.

“We’re on track for where we want to be,” Cougars coach Neil Rucinski said Tuesday after Dakota beat Romeo 25-10, 25-17, 21-25, 25-14 in a the Red Division of the Macomb Area Conference.

The Cougars had another great game from senior setter Erin Madigan, who contributed 25 assists and five kills despite missing Game 3 when Rucinski rested his starters.

“It’s not just his adjustability, but his leadership,” Rucinski said. “There is a very humble feel on the pitch and in training, but there is also a very aggressive and strong work ethic. It’s a great mix. She is definitely one of the best in the state.

Hard work is made easier by the trust Madigan and his hitters have developed between them.

“Our hitters are seniors, so there’s a lot of confidence there, but they’ve worked really hard and become top players,” Madigan said. “I trust all my hitters. Even if the pass is canceled, they can recover the ball and put it away.

Olivia Gardner led Dakota with 10 kills against Romeo and Johanna Tillman and Karley Pretzer each have eight. Bella Austin and Emma Thamarus are also dangerous around the net.

“We’re extremely strong in all positions,” Rucinski said. “We have the ability, size and physique in all three (striking) positions. We have a lot of options and it’s hard for teams to decide what to focus on. We have several options, and if everyone is hot at the same time, it can be scary.

Each service begins with a called game, but there is also the opportunity for Madigan to improvise.

“It depends on whether a hitter is hot and gets a lot of kills,” she said. “It also depends on the block of the other team. It depends on a lot of things, but sometimes depending on the pass, I might only have one option. Then I just try to get the ball up and give my hitter a better pass to get the kill.

Dakota finished Game 1 with an 8-0 run. Lexi Brown served the final seven points and had pocket aces in the run.

The Bulldogs took an early lead in Game 2, but Dakota overcame a 13-9 deficit with nine straight points. The streak included two kills from Gardner and one from Austin.

Rucinski rested his starters in Game 3 and Dakota put in a solid performance behind Pretzer’s strike, but Romeo broke a 16-16 tie with a. Finishing 9-5 with three kills and an ace serve from Hannah Tymitz.

Game 4 was close until the Cougars finished with a 13-5 series. A kill from Thamarus secured victory for Dakota.

“It’s always nice to get everyone involved and give the starters the opportunity to be on the other side and support,” Rucinski said.

Romeo’s coach, Stacy Williams, was pleased with her team’s performance.

“Dakota is a great competitor. We sometimes played well and believed in ourselves sometimes, but other times we let what happened on the other side of the net dictate things,” she said. “Then we would regain control. There were ups and downs, but overall I’m happy with the way we played against them.

Williams said she tried a different rotation against the Cougars.

“I liked how it looked and I think we can build on that,” she said.

One of the changes was to have Alyson Culkin in the front row.

“She did a good job against their big hitters,” Williams said.

Tymitz led Romeo with 12 kills, Ava Kafoury had eight and Culkin added six kills. Trista Ameel played a good defensive game for the Bulldogs.

Dakota improved to 5-0 in the MAC Red. Romeo slipped to 1-4.

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