Two talented rivals, five intensity-soaked games and countless breath-taking performances added up to one incredibly entertaining volleyball match Thursday night in the Plymouth High School gymnasium.
In the end, Canton used an Alaina Turner-led block party to spoil the Wildcats' Senior Night party and earn a thrilling five-game victory.
(NOTE: To view video of the entire exciting fifth game, CLICK HERE)
Plymouth, which was honoring five seniors, led 5-2 in game five before the Chiefs stormed back to win 13 of the final 20 points.
Canton (25-8-3) finished the regular season with an 8-2 mark in the KLAA South Division, two games behind first-place Livonia Churchill.
The Wildcats are 17-8-2 overall and 6-4 in the South.
Both teams will be competing in Saturday's KLAA Kensington Conference tournament at Novi.
Powered by a loud and fired-up student cheering section, Plymouth surged to a 25-8 victory in game one in a back-and-forth match that saw the Chiefs counter with a 25-21 win in game two.
Game three was knotted at 19-all before Plymouth -- led by four Kayla Bridge kills and great defense by Laura Schmid -- netted six of the last seven points to win 25-20.
The Chiefs didn't trail in games for long, taking game four, 25-14. The game's tide turned thanks to a five-point Kristen Muir serving streak that extended the winners' lead to 15-6.
Erica den Boer was instrumental in the run, providing two solid kills.
Game five was tight early before the Chiefs took the lead for good, 6-5, on a Kristen Muir kill.
Plymouth pulled to within 10-9 late on a no-doubter Alex Roberts kill, but the Chiefs pulled it out thanks in large part to Turner, who contributed two crucial late-game blocks.
"The girls were really fired up early; everybody was clicking and we got Canton off its game a little bit," said Plymouth coach Kelly McCausland. "Our student cheering section really helped out. They were awesome. They represented us well.
"When we moved to the other side of the court tonight for games two and four, we weren't the same team. I never like to believe in superstitions, but as soon as we moved to the court facing our fans, we freaked out a little bit. I felt good going into game five. We were on the side we were playing well on, but we had a couple of hitting errors that set up an opportunity for Alaina Turner to come back, and she did."
McCausland had high praise for her seniors: Dani Risi, Laura Schmid, Bridge, Mariah Tesarz and Roberts.
"I'm very proud of them all," she said. "Alex really stepped up tonight with six blocks. We talked all we about blocking and she really came through.
"Dani have it her all and led our offense with 16 kills while Kayla was our defensive leader (24 digs to go with 12 kills). Kayla also did a great job of keeping everybody fired up.
"Mariah was outstanding defensively tonight (37 digs). She was all over the place, and Laura Schmid (11 digs) was almost perfect passing serve-receive-wise.
"I've got to give Canton a lot of credit, though. They turned it on when they had to and they know who to get the ball to: Kristen and Alaina."
Muir was her usual outstanding self, leading the Chiefs with 21 kills, 34 digs and four aces.
Turner excelled in the middle, racking up 11 kills and nine blocks. Maggie Deloy (five kills, 19 digs) and Erica den Boer (four kills, nine digs) also had several shining moments.
"We just had error after error after error in the first game," said Canton coach Mary Kryska. "We've been working on eliminating them in practice, and we did a better job as the match went on.
"Playing Plymouth is such a mental game for the girls. Everybody knows everybody else and Plymouth beat us a couple weeks ago, so they came in confident."
Kryska said the loud cheering section wasn't as much a detriment to her team as it was a booster for the Wildcats.
"I don't think it really affects the girls, other than they can't hear us from the bench," she said. "They have so much adrenaline and they're focused so much on the match, that they're able to block out the crowd."
Canton received outstanding efforts from its two setters: Jackie Waite (23 assists, nine digs) and Lauren Martin, who picked up 15 assists.
Alex Bryden had a fine defensive night, digging out 10 potential kills.
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plymouth senior Dani Risi goes high for a
game-two kill over the blocking attempts of Alaina Turner (3) and Katie
Benner (8). (Ed Wright photo)
Alex Bryden goes low to make a nice dig. (Ed Wright photo)
Mariah Tesarz keeps a point alive. (Ed Wright photo)
Jackie Waite displays incredible focus on this bump. (Ed Wright photo)
Madelyn Betts skies for a kill. (Ed Wright photo)
Maggie Deloy (lower-left corner) makes a diving effort to keep a point alive. (Ed Wright photo)
The Wildcats received support from a vocal student cheering section. (Ed Wright photo)