Standouts from the 2018 Lake Orion Dragon Invite
The 2018 Lake Orion Dragon Invite featured 28 teams from around the state on Saturday, many of which should have championship aspirations this season. Of the 28, eight teams managed to fight through the heat and competition to make the…
The 2018 Lake Orion Dragon Invite featured 28 teams from around the state on Saturday, many of which should have championship aspirations this season. Of the 28, eight teams managed to fight through the heat and competition to make the gold bracket quarterfinals. Here are the standouts from the eight teams and what we can expect from them for the rest of the year.
We all know that Lake Orion has two of the big names in the Class of 2019 in outside Paige Briggs (Western Kentucky) and setter Wren Macaulay (New Hampshire). However, the Dragons know to excel this year they will need another face to step up. On Saturday, that was junior right side Sydney Smith. Despite some struggles during the day, Smith stepped up big for Lake Orion in the final against Northville. She finished the day with 28 kills, which was second to Briggs, who had 54. Briggs looked like the complete player we know, adding 37 digs to her stat line. Macaulay finished with 127 assists and 13 kills.
In a tournament that featured a lot of strong hitters, Hannah Grant (Michigan State) had a busy day, but was her steady self at libero, leading the Mustangs defense and passing. She also was tough to handle on the serve. Junior middle Clare McNamara was dominant at times on Saturday, providing some of the most powerful attacks of the entire tournament. Northville is excited about sophomore outside Jenna Boksha, who coach Julie Fisette looks 10 times better than she did a year ago at this time.
St. Catherine Academy
The Stars played with a chip on their shoulder Saturday, and with good reason. With the move from Class C to Division 2, not many have been giving SCA any love as a contender in the state this year. If Saturday is any indication, St. Catherine Academy is definitely going to be in the mix. The Stars went toe-to-toe with many of the top hitters in the state and didn’t flinch. In fact, they were often times winning that battle. Senior right side Emma Schlagheck (Albany) proved she can hit with anyone on Saturday while senior outside Payton Porter showed tremendous all-around ability, impacting on offense, defense and the serve. Both were being fed by senior setter Katie Grose, who was mixing up the feeds and also creating a lot of problems for opponents with her serving.
Despite the loss of one of the all-time greats in the program, Abbey Malinowski, the Wolves still showed that they can be a force in Division 1. While not their now, they have plenty of potential as they develop their young squad. Junior outside Jordan Newblatt looks to be the driving force on the Wolves’ attack this year, but Clarkston has some depth at the net and will look to mix it up. Sophomore middle Alana Watlington stood out as a player to watch. If she continues to develop, she should be a huge piece for Clarkston come the postseason. Another sophomore, Claire Nowicki will also be in the rotation on the outside.
The Cougars showed that they will be in the mix in the OAA Red and the state picture by taking Lake Orion to the limit in the second set of their quarterfinal. Stoney Creek has some good balance along with some go-to options. Junior outside Kate Stration really shined in moments on Saturday and looks like a clear leader for the Cougars. Nina Billotto (West Liberty) is another hitting option to pair with Stration, along with freshman Sydney Tomlak, whose potential has coach Ross Talbott very excited. Sara Thompson was anchoring the defense and really giving her all against some big hitters.
Flushing brings a good mix of experience and youth to its 2018 team and the senior leadership showed in outside Maddie Morrison and middle Quincy Davis. The two each had 20 kills on the day and Davis added nine blocks while Morrison had 34 digs and five aces. Another senior middle Taylor Wendling has 11 blocks and was difficult to get the ball past. The Raiders have a lot of hitting options this year, which should help freshman setter Kendyl Andrews settle in to a big role on the varsity squad. Andrews had 76 assists on Saturday.
The Colts are the interesting team in 2018. You can certainly argue that Troy has the best 1-2 hitting combination in the state in senior outside Jessica Robinson (Michigan) and junior right side Francesca McBride (Florida). When the Colts were in system, they would get on big runs. However, they struggled when out of system and still have question marks in the other big areas like defense and passing. If Troy can sharpen up their fundamentals, they will certainly be a factor in 2018.
The Eagles grinded out a challenging three-set win over Brandon in the first round of bracket play and showed a lot of heart throughout the day. Coach Brian Theut knows his team will experience some ups and downs this year as they develop some young talent. Still, Lakeland has senior outside Lizzie Virgin (IUP) to carry the load for right now. She was the go-to on Saturday and will be all season. In the middle, Lakeland added Northville transfer Izzy Sawyer this year. The junior had her moments on Saturday and will be a nice compliment to Virgin. In terms of young talent, Theut is excited about freshman outside Julia Fledderjohn. She has a lot of potential and will see an increase in workload as the season progresses.