By Dave Hart

NORTON SHORES – The Reeths-Puffer volleyball squad knew it had a challenge on its hands Tuesday, facing four-time defending O-K Black Conference champion Mona Shores on the road.

But the Rockets showed no fear and took advantage of a struggling Sailors team in a long match.

Reeths-Puffer’s Abigayle Mitchelson goes for the set. Photo/Jason Goorman

The two teams took turns winning the first four sets, then the Rockets outlasted the Sailors 15-6 in the fifth to claim a 3-2 O-K Black Conference victory in front of a big crowd.

“It was a good match for us,” said Reeths-Puffer coach Michael Crane. “It was probably the best match for us this season, but it was tough and will always be tough. They (Mona Shores) have a good program and will always be hard to beat.”

Neither team wanted to give up in the five-set affair, which was played in the muggy Sailor gym.

Reeths-Puffer opened with 25-15 win, before failing by the same score in the second set. The Rockets regained their advantage, winning a close third set 25-23, then Mona Shores won the fourth set 25-19.

The Rockets gained the advantage in the decisive fifth set by scoring the first five points. The outburst was sparked by a five-point service run by Anna Young.

Cam Vanderleest helped the Rockets seal the victory with three kills down the stretch.

“We play in a tough conference, and you always have to play tough to succeed,” Crane said after watching his players pull together and nail down the win.

Mona Shores’ No. 8 Suriya VanderOord sets up Anya Herrera while No. 11 Nia Miskel looks on. Photo/Jason Goorman

Mona Shores never got closer than four points in the final set. The Sailors were hurt by six unforced errors with the match on the line.

“I was hoping for some better play,” said Mona Shores coach Jim Vanderwall. “I give credit to Reeth-Puffer. They played hard and tough.”

Vanderleest paced the Rockets with 23 kills, Young added 12 kills, and Abigayle Mitchelson has 45 assists.

Young led the Rockets defensively with 23 digs while Vanderleest and Bridget McHugh contributed three blocks apiece.

The Rockets are now 3-2 in O-K Black play. Their overall record was not available.

Grace Hellman led the Sailors with 12 kills and Suriya VanderOord had 29 assists. Sasha Poland had a 48-dig performance for Mona Shores.

Mona Shores fell to 11-13 on the season and 3-2 in conference competition.