Second Half | Stories Behind the Scores
Finals Preview: History in the Making
Finals Preview: History in the Making
Volleyball
Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Ten of 16 teams traveling to this weekend's Volleyball Semifinals are seeking their first MHSAA championships. Nine are hoping to advance to Saturday's title games for the first time.

And only Kellogg Arena regular Battle Creek St. Philip returns from last season's winners. But although the Tigers aren't among those going for first-time stardom, they're looking to make a little history as well; a seventh straight Class D title would be the second-longest such streak in any class in MHSAA volleyball history. 

Below is a look at all 16 teams playing this weekend. Class B and C Semifinals are Thursday, with Class A and D on Friday and all four Finals on Saturday. All four Semifinals and Finals will be streamed live and then archived at MHSAA.tvClick here for a full schedule of this weekend's games, plus links to brackets from every round of the tournament.

Tickets cost $6 for Semifinals and $7 for Finals, with a Semifinal-Final ticket available for $15.

(NOTE: Rankings are those published by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association. Player statistics are through Regional Finals.)

Class A

GRAND HAVEN
Record/rank:
44-16-1, No. 8
Coach: Aaron Smaka, sixth season (206-101-3)
League finish: First in O-K Red
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-0 over Rockford, 3-1 over honorable mention Grand Rapids Christian (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Abby Cole 6-5 sr. MH (567 kills, 176 blocks, .455 hitting %) Krysteena Davis, 6-0 jr. MH (364 kills, 108 blocks), Jami Hogoboom 5-10 jr. S (1,506 assists, 322 digs).
Finals forecast: Grand Haven is coming off its first Regional championship and didn't give up a game in the tournament until allowing Grand Rapids Christian one in the Quarterfinal. Cole, also a standout on the Buccaneers’ Class A basketball champion team in March, was the runner-up for the Miss Volleyball award and has committed to the University of Michigan.  

MACOMB DAKOTA
Record/rank:
57-5, No. 3
Coach: Tracie Ferguson, fifth season (166-79-12)
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 2-1, 2-1, 2-0 and 2-0 over No. 10 Lake Orion, 2-0 over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 2-0 over No. 6 East Grand Rapids, 2-1 over honorable mention Farmington Hills Mercy, 2-0 over Class B No. 2 North Branch, 3-0 over Class B No. 5 Marysville.
Players to watch: Carli Snyder, 6-1 jr. OH (863 kills, .405 hitting %, 615 digs, 174 aces), Megan Manierski, 5-11 jr. S (1,396 assists, 96 aces), Megan Downey, 5-8 sr. OH (269 kills, 496 digs).
Finals forecast: Macomb Dakota has beaten a number of the best teams in Michigan this fall, and earned four victories against Lake Orion – which beat Dakota 3-2 in last season’s Quarterfinal. Snyder is a two-time all-stater and has committed already to sign with the University of Florida. She and three other junior starters will likely make the Cougars the favorite for the 2013 championship as well.  

NORTHVILLE
Record/rank:
49-3-4, honorable mention
Coach: Amanda Yaklin, fourth season (132-61-20)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1, 3-0 and 3-1 (District Final) over honorable mention Novi, 3-2 over No. 9 Livonia Churchill, 2-1 over Dearborn Divine Child.
Players to watch: Symone Abbott, 6-0 jr. OH (565 kills), Rebecca Martin, 5-10 sr. S (181 kills, 1,280 assists, 108 blocks, 280 digs).
Finals forecast: Northville steadily has improved under Yaklin from a team that went just 16-23-6 in her first season of 2009 to one that has reached 40 wins the last two seasons. The Mustangs also won the KLAA Kensington Conference (made up of the Central and South divisions) before falling to Novi for the overall league championship – although they then beat Novi in the District.

TEMPERANCE BEDFORD
Record/rank:
64-12-3, unranked
Coach: Jodi Manore, 28th season (1,677-281-48)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Championship game history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2005), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 2-0 over No. 9 Livonia Churchill, 2-0 over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 3-1 over honorable mention Farmington Hills Mercy (Quarterfinal), 2-1 over Class C No. 1 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Ellen Hays, 5-7 sr. L (1,208 digs), Taylor Foster, 5-10 sr. RH (379 kills, .305 hitting %, 143 blocks), Mackenzie Andrews, 5-7 jr. S (1,309 assists), Nicole Rightnowar 5-10 soph. MH (371 kills, 177 blocks).
Finals forecast: Bedford was unranked at the end of the regular season, but that’s obviously deceiving. The Kicking Mules pushed as high as No. 6 but finished with three losses over their final four matches while facing top competition. Manore is the second-winningest coach in MHSAA volleyball history, and has two more hitters who also put down more than 350 kills this fall. Hays was a Miss Volleyball finalist and has committed to Toledo. 

Class B

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
Record/rank:
27-9-1, unranked
Coach: Sarah Schmitt, third season (47-25-1)
League finish: Tied for first in Detroit Catholic League AA
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 over honorable mention Pontiac Notre Dame, 3-1 over New Boston Huron (Regional Final), 3-1 over Haslett (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Christina Porada, 5-6 jr. L (717 digs), Megan Marcini, 5-3 sr. S (146 kills, 683 assists, .356 hitting %, 444 digs), Morgan Blair, 5-10 sr. OH (275 kills, 324 digs).
Finals forecast: Divine Child prepared for its tournament run by facing a number of tough teams – its losses were to Class A powers Lake Orion, Farmington Hills Mercy, Northville and Bloomfield Hills Marian, plus Class B Semifinalist Whitehall and Pontiac Notre Dame (in their first of two matches), among others. The Falcons are 23-4-1 since seeing some of those at the start of the fall, and boast an all-state second teamer from last season in Porada and an honorable mention in Marcini.

LAKE ODESSA LAKEWOOD
Record/rank:
50-4, No. 1
Coach: Kellie Rowland, 15th season (785-115)
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Championship game history: Class B runner-up in 1995.
Best wins: 2-0 over No. 8 Cadillac, 3-1 over No. 6 Wayland (District Semifinal), 3-2 over No. 7 Holland Christian (Regional Semifinal), 3-2 over No. 3 Ada Forest Hills Eastern (Regional Final), 2-1 and 2-0 over Class C No. 2 St. Louis, 3-0 and 2-0 over Class A No. 8 Grand Haven, 2-0 over Class A honorable mention Grand Rapids Christian, 2-1 over Class A No. 7 Mattawan.
Players to watch: Emily Kutch, 6-0 sr. OH (611 kills, .404 hitting %, 101 blocks), Brooke Wieland, 5-6 sr. S (309 kills, 1,117 assists, 78 blocks), Olivia Davis, 6-1 sr. OH (363 kills, 73 aces).
Finals forecast: The Vikings have won eight Regional championships during two tenures under Rowland, who stepped away from the program from 2002-09. Like most of her teams over the years, the Vikings loaded up with tough competition from the west side of the state, and also beat Class C No. 9 Morley Stanwood in tournament play. Kutch was an all-state third teamer last season and along with Wieland and Davis have been varsity standouts all four years of high school.

NORTH BRANCH
Record/rank:
67-7-1, No. 2
Coach: James Fish, 13th season (739-125-37)
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East
Championship game history: Class B champion 2009, two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 5 Marysville (Regional Semifinal), 2-0 and 3-0 (Regional Final) over honorable mention Mount Morris, 3-0 over honorable mention Pontiac Notre Dame (Quarterfinal), 2-0 over Class A honorable mention Farmington Hills Mercy, 2-0 and 2-0 over Class A No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 2-0 over Temperance Bedford, 2-0 and 2-0 over Class C No. 2 St. Louis.
Players to watch: Laura Wilson, 6-0 soph. OH (652 kills, .397 hitting %, 131 aces), Micaela Deshetsky, 5-10 sr. MH (549 kills, .326 hitting %, 104 blocks), Rachel Fish, 5-7 sr. L (113 aces, 808 digs).
Finals forecast: North Branch has made three championship game appearances over the last six seasons, and both Deshetsky and Rachel Fish were contributors on the 2010 team that finished runner-up to Fruitport. Fish also earned all-state honorable mention last season. The Broncos are 33-2 over their last 35 matches, and all seven losses were to Class A teams. They run through two setters, senior Ally Ruhlman and junior Jamie Barrows, who combine for nearly 10 assists per game.

WHITEHALL
Record/rank:
43-11-2, No. 4
Coach: Ted Edsall, 16th season (526-264-29)
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 2-0 over Dearborn Divine Child, 2-0 and 2-0 over Fruitport, 3-2 over No. 8 Cadillac (Quarterfinal), 2-0 over Class C No. 9 Morley Stanwood.
Players to watch: Autumn Christenson, 6-4 sr. MH (390 kills, .431 hitting %, 140 blocks, 300 digs, 90 aces), Hope Rillema, 5-9 sr. OH (200 kills, .340 hitting %, 402 digs), Alyssa Myers, 5-9 fr. S (990 assists, 90 aces).
Finals forecast: Like Divine Child – which Whitehall defeated earlier this season – the Vikings gained plenty of experience against tough teams despite taking a few losses including two from Grand Haven and one each from East Grand Rapids and Holland Christian. Rillema made the all-state first team last season and Christenson made the second, and they’re joined by 5-9 senior Bailey Seeger – the second-leading hitter this fall with 220 kills plus a team-high 120 aces. 

Class C

CONCORD
Record/rank:
57-6-2, No. 3
Coach: Kathy Lehman, ninth season (325-125-31)
League finish: First in Big 8 Conference
Championship game history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1992).
Best wins: 2-0, 2-0, 2-0 and 3-1 (Regional Semifinal) over No. 8 Bronson, 2-0 over No. 6 Pewamo-Westphalia, 2-0 over Class D No. 3 Beal City.
Players to watch: Maycee Brigham, 5-9 sr. OH (525 kills, .322 hitting %, 107 aces, 506 digs); Andrea Brigham, 5-10 sr. OH (573 kills, 441 digs), Julayne Brigham, 5-8 sr. S (1,323 assists); Sydney Martines, 5-10 sr. MB (334 kills, 134 aces, 123 blocks).
Finals forecast: Concord has given up just one game during the tournament so far and won 11 straight matches led in large part by the talented Brigham cousins. Andrea Brigham made the all-state first team last season and Maycee made the third, and those three plus senior defensive specialist Megan Redman also started on Concord's Class C semifinalist basketball team in March. All but eight of Concord’s wins this fall have been sweeps.

MONROE ST. MARY CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank:
47-6, No. 1
Coach: Diane E. Tuller, 15th season (496-177-50)
League finish: First in Huron League
Championship game history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 5 Manchester (Regional Semifinal), 2-0 and 2-1 over Temperance Bedford, 3-1 and 3-1 over New Boston Huron.
Players to watch: Alexis Thompson, 5-8 sr. L/RH (117 kills, 96 blocks, 236 digs); Cassandra Haut, 6-2 soph. MH (438 kills, .377 hitting %, 241 blocks); Clare McMillan, 5-5 sr. S (889 assists), Taylor Vuich, 6-0 sr. MH (371 kills, 119 blocks).
Finals forecast: The Kestrels have made at least the Semifinals seven of the last eight seasons and finished runners-up last season after losing in five games to Morley-Stanwood. Thompson made the all-state first team as a libero after that run, and McMillan and Haut both earned honorable mentions. Although St. Mary has just one win over a ranked Class C team, that’s in large part because it played almost all Class A and B teams this fall – half of the Kestrels' losses came either to Class A No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian or No. 10 Lake Orion.

TRAVERSE CITY ST. FRANCIS
Record/rank:
41-7-3, No. 10
Co-coaches: Heather Simpson and Rita Jones, first seasons (40-7-3)
League finish: First in Lake Michigan Conference
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 4 Calumet (Quarterfinal), 2-0, 3-0 and 3-1 over Charlevoix, 2-0 over Class D No. 3 Beal City, 2-0 over Class D No. 4 Leland.
Players to watch: Bridget Bussell, 6-1 sr. OH/MH (517 kills, .370 hitting %, 110 aces), Kaitlyn Hegawald, 5-10 sr. S (957 assists, 120 aces).
Finals forecast: Calumet in the Quarterfinal broke an 11-match sweep streak by the Gladiators, who have surged under Simpson and Jones. They were hired in July after coaching the junior varsity the last two seasons, an inherited all-state second teamer Bussell and third-teamer Hegawald. They are two of only three seniors on a team that could be back over the next few seasons – the second and third-leading hitters are among six underclassmen on the roster.

UNIONVILLE-SEBEWAING
Record/rank:
38-8-4, honorable mention
Coach: Teresa Rose, fifth season (155-52-26)
League finish: Tied for first in the Greater Thumb Conference West
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 2 St. Louis (Regional Final), 3-1 over No. 6 Pewamo-Westphalia (Quarterfinal). Players to watch: Miranda Fuerst, 6-1 sr. MH (404 kills, .399 hitting %, 128 blocks), Erica Treiber, 6-1 soph. MH (280 kills, 128 blocks, 233 digs, 87 aces), Chelsey Bitzer, 5-6 sr. S (843 assists, 186 digs).
Finals forecast: Four seniors anchor a lineup that won its second Regional title in five seasons, but was 15-21-6 only three seasons ago. USA has won 15 straight matches on the way to tying its longest run ever – the 2008 Regional title was the only other one in program history, but both have come under Rose. Fuerst made the all-state third team in 2011. 

Class D

BATTLE CREEK ST. PHILIP
Record/rank:
71-2-1, No. 1
Coach: Vicky Groat, 15th season (843-170-74)
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association
Championship game history: 17 MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), eight runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 4 Leland (Quarterfinal), 3-0 over No. 6 Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (Regional Semifinal), 2-0 over No. 10 Waterford Our Lady, 2-0 over No. 2 Mendon, 2-0 over Class A No. 1 Richland Gull Lake, 2-0 over Class B No. 8 Cadillac, 2-0 over Class B No. 6 Wayland, 2-0 over Class B No. 9 Grand Rapids South Christian, 2-0 over Class C No. 3 Concord.
Players to watch: Lenae Lesiow, 5-6 sr. S (1,193 assists, 237 digs); Amanda McKinzie, 6-0 sr. OH (700 kills, 429 digs, 130 aces, .360 hitting %); Sierra Hubbard-Neil, 5-9 jr. OH (535 kills, .360 hitting %, 524 digs, 90 aces).
Finals forecast: The Tigers have won the last six MHSAA Class D championships, and with another this weekend can pull within one of Marysville’s record eight titles in a row from 1997-2004. Two more wins also would give them the 10th most for one season in MHSAA volleyball history. And this is a history-making sort of team. McKinzie – who has committed to Virginia Tech – was named Miss Volleyball on Monday and will rank high in a number of all-time hitting categories, and Hubbard-Neil also made the all-state first team last season with Lesiow making the second. They and two more of this weekend’s starters also started in last season’s Final.  

BEAL CITY
Record/rank:
44-10-1, No. 3
Coach: Kelly David, first season (44-10-1)
League finish: First in Highland Conference
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 10 Waterford Our Lady (Quarterfinal), 2-0 over Class C No. 2 St. Louis, 2-1 over Class C No. 6 Pewamo-Westphalia.
Players to watch: Addie Schumacher, 6-0 jr. MB (442 kills, .370 hitting %, 144 blocks, 389 digs); Monica David, 5-8 sr. MB (229 kills, .330 hitting %, 427 assists, 95 blocks, 345 digs); Jade Kennedy, 5-5 sr. S (768 assists).
Finals forecast: Three seasons ago, Kelly David set the Aggies into the Class D Semifinals with sister Monica and Kennedy on the bench as freshman call-ups to varsity. Now they’ll try to take the program into its first championship game. Coach David can call on a number of players to contribute, with six totaling at least 100 kills and sophomore Jordan Schneider joining two others with at least 90 blocks. Junior hitter Melanie Schafer has been a defensive ace with 673 digs.  

ONAWAY
Record/rank:
48-4-3, No. 5
Coach: Steve Watson, 10th season (278-148-43)
League finish: First in Ski Valley Conference
Championship game history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 2-0, 3-1 and 3-1 (Regional Semifinal) over No. 8 Pellston, 3-0 over honorable mention Crystal Falls Forest Park (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Mariah Ehrke, 5-8 jr. OH (389 kills, 548 digs), Megan Estep, 5-7 sr. S (915 assists, 90 aces, 290 digs), Emily Estep, 5-3 sr. L (333 digs).
Finals forecast: Onaway has won five District titles under Watson, but this will be the first Semifinal appearance in program history – and comes only two seasons after it finished 20-21-6. Ehrke is the team’s tallest player, but the Cardinals are loaded with three more hitters who have at least 190 kills this fall. And a pair of sisters provides plenty of defensive support and setup: Emily Estep made the all-state third team last season and Megan earned honorable mention.

MENDON
Record/rank:
47-6-1, No. 2
Coach: Kathy Trenary, 19th season (675-290-123)
League finish: First in St. Joseph Valley League
Championship game history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2001).
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 7 Ann Arbor Rudolf Steiner (Quarterfinal), 3-0 over No. 9 Adrian Lenawee Christian (Regional Final), 3-1 over Class C No. 8 Bronson, 2-1, 2-0 and 2-0 over Schoolcraft.
Players to watch: Amanda Lovell, 5-9 sr. OH (427 kills, .344 hitting %, 86 aces), Brooke Howard, 5-10 jr. MH (344 kills, .348 hitting %), Loryn Baughman, 5-8 jr. S (1,055 assists).
Finals forecast: Like a number of the other top small-school teams, Mendon played most of its matches against much larger opponents this season, and that competition has paid off with another long run that began with a 12th-straight District title. Lovell made the all-state third team in 2011 and is one of four hitters with at least 200 kills this fall. 

PHOTO: Temperance Bedford's Nicole Rightnowar (5) and Kayla Gwozdz (15) block a kill attempt during their team's 3-0 Class A Regional Final win over Dearborn. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)


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