ST. JOSEPH — Dowagiac and St. Joseph both had some surprise success at Saturday's St. Joseph Volleyball Invitational.

Dowagiac defeated the host Bears 25-23, 25-21 in the championship match of the six-team tournament.

"It was big for this program," Dowagiac coach Tony Hooley said. "It hasn't had a lot of success in recent years, so it was a nice win. We just kind of played better as the day went on."

St. Joseph reached the finals with a big comeback, knocking off Lakeshore 8-25, 25-19, 15-9 in the semifinals.

The championship match didn't feature nearly the same type of swings as that semifinal, as both games remained close throughout before Dowagiac was able to win in the end.

"I think we used a lot of energy trying to come back in the Lakeshore game and we just ran out of gas a little bit," said St. Joseph junior varsity coach Paul Kelm, filling in for his wife, coach Heather Briney-Kelm, who was on vacation.

Dowagiac's semifinal battle with Niles was also close, with the Chieftains winning 25-18, 22-25, 15-13.

Nikki Nate and Taylor Bailey led Niles with 23 kills apiece on the day. The Vikings played without middle hitter Marika Ruppart due to a family emergency.

"That's not an excuse, you play with the team you have and you prepare," Niles coach Jenny Nate said. "But I think it took us a little bit of time. We've got some hitters out there who trust themselves and are used to it, and some that were in different positions. They needed some time to get the confidence going, so it was kind of up-and-down."

Dowagiac also had to make adjustments to its lineup, calling up freshmen Caleigh Wimberly and Alanah Smith from the junior varsity team. The Chieftains will play the Vikings again in their Division 2 district opener.

"It was just a big psychological win for us, to feel like we have a chance," Hooley said. "We weren't at full strength either — I've got kids injured, I've got kids sick. I had two JV kids pulled up, first time they played varsity and they played big."

Though young players contributed, seniors Jenna Davis and Nicole Whan led the way for Dowagiac. Davis had 46 kills and 11 blocks, and Whan had 91 assists and 54 digs.

St. Joseph was led by sophomore Karly Klaer, who had 38 kills and 51 assists. Ainsley Hegg was second in both categories with 23 kills and 24 assists. The Bears were in control throughout their second and third games against Lakeshore.

"That was crazy how we didn't do so well the first game and then turned it around 180 degrees the other way," Kelm said. "Obviously it's Lakeshore and it's always a big rivalry game. I think a lot of times that gets in their heads."

Lakeshore had been dominating the tournament prior to its late struggles. The Lancers finished first in their pool, then beat Niles to earn the top seed for bracket play.

"They're a good team... and they've improved a ton," first-year Lakeshore coach Sarah Strefling said. "But greatness is just showing up consistently. I'm still new to them, they're still new to me. That's something that they'll develop. It's not necessarily fair to the seniors, but they'll develop this through a program that's consistent in holding those high expectations."

Strefling mentioned setter Emma Meyer, who had 79 assists, and Sierra Ciesielski, who had 34 digs and a team-high 31 kills, as key performers. 

Championship — Dowagiac d. St. Joseph 25-23, 25-21.

Semifinals — St. Joseph d. Lakeshore 8-25, 25-19, 15-9; Dowagiac d. Niles 25-18, 22-25, 15-13.

Quarterfinals — St. Joseph d. Kal. Hackett 25-9, 25-20; Dowagiac d. Paw Paw 27-25, 25-22.

Pool play/seeding matches — Lakeshore 3-0, Niles 1-1-1, Dowagiac 1-0-2, Kal. Hackett 0-2-1, St. Joseph 1-1-1, Paw Paw 0-2-1.

Dowagiac — Riley Stack 3 assists, 21 kills, 13 digs, 1 block; Megan Davis 2 assists, 23 kills, 29 digs, 2 blocks; Caleigh Wimberly 1 assist, 7 kills, 1 ace, 40 digs; Emma Allen 1 kill, 5 digs; Nicole Whan 91 assists, 27 kills, 6 aces, 54 digs, 4 blocks; Jenna Davis 1 assist, 46 kills, 10 aces, 27 digs, 11 blocks; Allie Conner 1 assist, 46 kills, 10 aces, 27 digs, 11 blocks; Anna Dobberstein 1 assist, 2 aces, 49 digs; Alivia Murray 1 ace, 2 digs; Sarah Allen 1 assist, 3 digs; Alanah Smith 3 kills, 2 digs; Jessie Hulett 7 aces, 82 digs.

St. Joseph — Morgan Champion 7 kills, 1 assist, 1 ace, 8 digs; Olivia Blackmond 1 kill, 11 assist, 2 aces, 34 digs; Lauryn Griffin 21 kills, 1 ace, 9 digs, 1 block; Audrey Nowell 1 kill, 2 aces, 3 digs; Courtney Koch 5 kills, 1 digs; Ainsley Hegg 23 kills, 24 assists, 3 aces, 9 digs; Sophie Arent 2 aces, 12 digs; Taylor Valdes 12 kills, 1 assist, 13 digs; Avery Burnette 1 kill, 1 assist, 4 digs; Aubrey White-Day 4 kills; Symone King 8 kills, 2 blocks; Karly Klaer 38 kills, 51 assists, 6 aces, 20 digs, 1 block.

Niles — Nikki Nate 5 aces, 23 kills, 3 blocks, 9 digs; Taylor Bailey 23 kills, 3 blocks, 5 digs; Zoie Appleberry 3 aces, 10 kills, 14 digs; Amara Palmer 15 kills, 3 blocks, 2 digs; Bianca Pickens 29 digs; Grace Florkowski 1 ace, 2 kills, 23 digs, 42 assists; Cadence Knight 7 aces, 16 digs; Jillian Bruckner 12 kills, 6 blocks; Emma Beckman 1 ace, 9 digs, 33 assists; Lexi Kruger 7 kills, 1 block, 8 digs.

Lakeshore — Sierra Ciesielski 31 kills, 34 digs, 9 blocks; Cali Allen 20 kills, 39 digs; Bailey Joachim 30 kills, 45 digs; Jamey Carpenter 44 digs; Emma Meyer 79 assists, 5 digs.

Records — Dowagiac 22-16-4, Niles 21-19-5.

Contact:, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders