THREE OAKS – New Buffalo and Michigan Lutheran moved one step closer to a Division 4 volleyball district championships on Monday.

The Bison defeated Lake Michigan Catholic 25-19, 28-26, 25-10 and the Titans beat Eau Claire 25-6, 25-5, 25-10 in district quarterfinal play at River Valley High School.

New Buffalo jumped out to a 15-1 lead to start the first set. Lake Michigan Catholic responded with a 16-6 run of its own to trim the lead to 21-17 before the Bison pulled away to win the set.

“It was a game of runs,” LM Catholic coach Ashley Pagel said. “New Buffalo’s serve-receive gave us a lot of problems tonight but we were able to battle back, for the most part.”

Set two began the same way as set one with the Bison using a 16-5 run to take a 20-11 lead. But the Lakers stormed back with a 15-5 run of their own to take a 26-25 lead before the Bison scored three straight points to win the set.

“I think the girls got too comfortable when they get a lead like that,” New Buffalo coach Kevin Labaj said. “One of the things I stressed is that we can’t predict the future, but we can make the future. We need to come out and play hard every single play no matter what.

“In the end there, we made fewer mistakes. We still played to win; we didn’t try to play not to lose the game.”

The Bison had a strong start to set three as an Ava Mullen kill gave the team a 5-2 lead. New Buffalo jumped out to a 17-6 lead and was able to prevent another Laker run.

Sophia DeOliveira tallied 12 kills and nine digs for the Bison and Mullen had three aces 10 Kills five blocks and five kills. Mullen, along with Kelsey Corkan, have made an impact on the team as freshmen.

“Ava is a beast in the middle with blocks and kills and Kelsey had a phenomenal day serving,” Labaj said. “If we can get (Kelsey) to come around on her hitting and passing, I don’t think we’re gonna be stopped.”

New Buffalo will play River Valley at 7 p.m. in the district semifinal.

“I feel like with having a day of practice in between, I think we can come out and dominate,” Labaj said.

Emily Lage finished with seven kills, 11 digs, and seven assists while Hattie Latham had five kills, 10 digs, and seven assists.

With the Lakers’ season coming to an end, the team loses Lage and Elena Proos to graduation. Lake Michigan Catholic hopes the experience gained this season will pay dividends going into next season.

“These girls have so much heart,” Pagel said. “I would say the girls peaked at the end of the season and played our best volleyball. To play an experienced New Buffalo team as closely as they did says a lot about how far they’ve come.”

Michigan Lutheran took control of its match with Eau Claire and never let up. Mara Rugen led the Titans with 11 kills and Katie Rainey had seven digs.

“We aren’t taking anyone lightly,” Michigan Lutheran coach Bruce Molineaux said. “The kids were ready to go. I stressed serving and passing the ball. If you can serve and pass you’ll usually be in a good position.”

Michigan Lutheran plays Countryside at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the district semifinal.

“They have a couple of girls who can hit the ball,” Molineaux said. “We have to be on our toes and ready to go. This is a single-elimination tournament. When you lose, you’re done.”

The Beavers graduated just one player from their young roster. Head coach T.I. Ferry is optimistic about the program’s future.

“The group of girls that we finished with was a very close-knit family,” Ferry said. They were a fun group to coach; we will miss this group as a whole. We expect to be more improved on the court next year.”

New Buffalo d. Lake Michigan Catholic 25-19, 28-26, 25-10

New Buffalo – Mary Mayer 3 aces, 31 assists; Kelsey Corkran 9 aces, 5 kills, 6 digs; Sophia DeOliveira 12 kills, 9 digs; Ashley Hauseman 4 kills, 3 blocks, 3 kills; Ava Mullen 3 aces, 10 kills, 5 block, 5 kills.

LM Catholic – Emily Lage 7 kills, 11 digs, 7 assists; Elena Proos 15 assists; Hattie Latham 5 kills, 10 digs, 7 assists; 1 kill, 7 assists, 2 aces; Maggie Tidey 2 kills, 2 blocks, 4 digs; Izzy Housh 7 digs;  Chloe Mills 2 digs, 1 ace; Stella Rosenbaum 2 digs.

Michigan Lutheran d. Eau Claire 25-6, 25-5, 25-10

Michigan Lutheran – Mara Rugen 11 kills, 4 digs, 3 aces; Maria Rush 6 kills, 3 digs, 4 aces; Brooke Gerlache 5 kills, 2 aces; Katie Rainey 7 digs, 3 aces; Sophie Garcia 5 aces; Alexia Tobias 4 digs, 3 aces.

Eau Claire — Stephanie Jenkins 1 kill; Julia Kurland 1 ace, 2 dig; Emilee Demski 3 kills, 1 dig; Ali Ferry 1 assist, 1 kill, 7 digs; Kayla Arend 1 ace, 2 assist, 2 digs.

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