By Sue Moore
They went all the way to the state final match, but after a dramatic back-and-forth battle for points, the Schoolcraft Volleyball team suffered a heartbreaking loss to Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central this season. Coach Erin Onken told her team, “Even though you lost, you have won, just by being here.” Onken’s goal was to get past the quarterfinals because the team had been stuck at that level for the first two years of her coaching tenure in Schoolcraft. “We thought going into the final match that we had a good chance of winning it. The two teams matched up real well, but we knew it would be harder, because Monroe has been there before and had a lot of success,” Onken acquiesced.
The Eagles started off strong, taking the first set 24/23. The second set went back and forth, tied at least five times, but ended with Monroe taking set point for the win. The third set was hard on the team’s confidence, losing 25/20. The girls started playing better together and fought hard in the 4th set, taking an early lead, showing great teamwork in the process. But it was not to be, after the teams were tied at 21/21, Monroe jumped out in front to clinch the win and the championship at 25/22 for a match total of 3 to 1.
Onken said her girls were pretty loose going into the game, having fun, laughing and singing together and enjoying being there. On away trips, they will even tell the bus driver to turn off the music so they can sing and laugh, helping to keep the nerves in check, Onken recalled. They won the KVA conference and were 45-10-1 overall, going into the quarterfinals.
The team beat Roscommon in the semi-finals, and Ravenna in the quarterfinals to advance to play Monroe, which won it all in 2012 under their 14-year head coach Diane Tuller. Schoolcraft’s coach Onken has lots of experience under her belt before coming to coach the Eagles. She has had stops in Parchment, Fennville, Lake Superior College, and KVCC where she played and coached. Looking toward the 2015 season, the team is losing six seniors but expects to reload with two girls from the JV team that were brought up for the last two weeks so they could get a taste of the competitive atmosphere when going for the gold.