By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Temperance Bedford’s volleyball team entered this week’s MHSAA Class A tournament ranked No. 1 and in pursuit of its fourth Class A championship.
Their most recent titles, in 2001 and 2005, both saw the Kicking Mules come back to win after falling in the first games of their championship matches – with the 2001 team in particular traveling into unfamiliar territory on the way to finishing as one of the winningest in MHSAA history.
That Temperance Bedford team finished 82-1, with what remains the third most wins in MHSAA volleyball history. The Mules won 72 straight matches and nine tournaments for coach Jodi Manore, who entered this season with the second-most wins in MHSAA volleyball history and a record of 1,743-292-50.
The 2001 Final saw Temperance Bedford face Portage Northern in a rematch of the 1999 and 1992 LP Class A Finals, both Portage Northern wins during that program’s run of six titles over eight seasons.
The Mules dropped the first game in 2001 by a score of 15-8 and trailed 14-13 in the second before edging Northern 16-14 and then controlling the deciding game for the majority on the way to winning 15-11.
The final kill was put down by Missy Mohrbach, who had a team-high 15, off an assist by Lindi Bankowski – whose 39 total are tied for eighth on the now-retired Finals record list from the pre-rally scoring era. (Rally scoring was introduced for the 2004-05 season.)
Bankowski also had 10 kills and 12 digs and had played on the 1998 Class A championship team. She went on to play at Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne. After a record-setting career there and some coaching at the high school level, Bankowski (now Sallach) went on to coach at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee and then Mississippi State University until stepping down after the 2012 season.
Mohrbach played at Owens Community College in Ohio and then Wayne State University, while Melissa Meinhart (nine kills, 18 digs in the 2001 Final) also was on the 1998 Mules championship team and then played at IPFW. Erica Kaczorowski went on to play at Xavier University, and Jennifer Sulewski, a sophomore who came off the bench with nine kills, eventually played at Western Michigan University.
Bedford defeated a Portage Northern team that featured hitter Katie Bright, who went on to play at the University of Kentucky, and setter Laura Bellinger, who set a pre-rally scoring Finals record of 49 assists in the match and later played at Army and then the University of North Alabama.
Temperance Bedford faces Ypsilanti Lincoln in a District Semifinal tonight after opening with a 3-0 win over Ypsilanti Community on Tuesday.
PHOTO: Temperance Bedford's Missy Mohrbach winds up for the final kill of the 2001 Class A Volleyball Final at Western Michigan University.