CARNEY — When the Carney-Nadeau volleyball team steps on the Manistique High School gym floor tonight to take on the Rudyard Bulldogs in the quarterfinals of the 2020 MHSAA Division 4 Volleyball Tournament, it will be two months to the day since the last time they played.
In that match, the Wolves defeated the Chassell Panthers 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-2).
After, Carney — along with many other teams — had been waiting to go back to practice, which they were able to do for one day in late December before going back on hold due to a further COVID-related suspension by the MHSAA. That situation played out much like the first time Wolves' coach Steve Kedsch and his team learned the news.
"We found out at practice for the second time," Kedsch said. "It was just unbelievable, quite a bit of disappointment at the point. It almost felt like, at that time, it was the end. We feel pretty confident we'll make it to Tuesday and be able to conclude our season."
With several practices under their belt heading into Tuesday's match, Kedsch says he and the team are happy about being back in action.
"It feels pretty good," he said. "The kids have been pretty upbeat about it. Practices have been going great. They're picking up everything pretty quickly. I'm surprised about that.
"Mentally, they know what they need to do. It's just the timing with themselves and the team."
Not only are they happy, but the Wolves are also feeling positive and concentrated heading into the match.
"We feel confident in how far we progressed in our few practices," said Kedsch. "They seem very focused ... very committed to finishing our season and being the best team we can be."
The Wolves are hoping to use their confidence to make sure history doesn't repeat itself. Last season, they were in the same position — facing off against Rudyard in a quarterfinal, but the Bulldogs hamstrung the Wolves and advanced after four sets (3-1).
Three of Carney's strongest assets are Taylor Kedsch, Liana Blahnik, and Haley Ernest. Kedsch and Blahnik both received All-State honors, mentioning setter Ernest as a key part of earning those awards. That unit has been able to get back up to pace at practice.
"They had a few little bugs and timing issues to work out," coach Kedsch said. "Our last practice, we ran them hard. We made it like it was a five-game set, so they had to really push themselves. It was a mental and physical challenge for them, and they handled it well — the whole team did."
Last week, the MHSAA announced that teams will be allowed to have 50 immediate family members of athletes at tournament games. This, Kedsch said, is a big plus for the team.
"I think that'll be a big boost to have their parents and brothers and sisters actually at the match to watch them," he said. "We're pretty grateful for Manistique to allow us to play this quarterfinal there."
With their performance at practice, overall attitude and Kedsch reviewing tape of Rudyard, the Wolves feel good heading into their Tuesday night showdown with the Bulldogs.
"If we can execute where we want to execute, we feel pretty confident that we can do well against them and come out with the victory," said Kedsch. "On the other side, they're (Rudyard) a good team, and I'm sure they're going to scout us the same way."
While Carney has a positive outlook on their chances against Rudyard, coach Kedsch is not looking past the Bulldogs.
"I have not looked ahead (to who we might face after Rudyard)," he said. "If we were to win Tuesday night, I'll be on the bus ride home looking for which team won that quarterfinal and getting some film on them."
The winner of this quarterfinal between the Wolves and Bulldogs will face either Auburn Hills Oakland or Ubly.