Volleyball

Preview: Powers Return to Battle Creek

January 14, 2021

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This season began with teams practicing outside, and included nearly two months off for COVID-19 precautions before this final week.

But the scene over the next three days at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena will look quite familiar with a number of regulars back in the championship hunt.

Action begins today with Division 2 and 3 Semifinals, with Divisions 1 and 4 on Friday and all four title matches Saturday. 

While spectators are limited for this weekend’s event, all 12 matches will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv and (audio) MHSAANetwork.com. Click for more information from the 2020 Volleyball Finals Home on the MHSAA Website. (NOTE: Saginaw Valley Lutheran withdrew from the Division 3 Semifinals.)

This weekend’s schedule:

Division 3 Semifinals – Thursday
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central vs. Beaverton, 2 p.m.
Schoolcraft (BYE – Valley Lutheran forfeit)

Division 2 Semifinals - Thursday
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep vs. Lake Odessa Lakewood, 4:30 p.m. 
Cadillac vs. Grand Rapids Christian, 6:30 p.m.

Division 4 Semifinals – Friday
Mesick vs. Battle Creek St. Philip, Noon
Auburn Hills Oakland Christian vs. Carney-Nadeau, 2 p.m.

Division 1 Semifinals - Friday
Clarkston vs. Bloomfield Hills Marian, 4:30 p.m.
Novi vs. Lowell, 6:30 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1, 2 p.m. 
Division 2, 4 p.m. 
Division 3, Noon
Division 4, 10 a.m.

Below is a glance at contenders in each division.

Division 1

BLOOMFIELD HILLS MARIAN
Record/rank: 33-5, No. 2
Coach: Mayssa Cook, third season (117-24-2)
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic League Central
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), six runner-up finishes
Best wins: 3-2 (Regional Final) and 3-2 over No. 1 Farmington Hills Mercy, 2-0 over No. 9 Saline, 3-0 over No. 4 Byron Center, 2-1 over No. 7 Novi, 2-0 over honorable mention Clarkston, 3-0 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Christian, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 4 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
Players to watch: Ava Brizard, 6-1 jr. OH (510 kills, .504 kill %, 338 digs); Sarah Sylvester, 6-3 jr. MB (174 kills, .407 kill %, 66 blocks); Ava Sarafa, 5-11 soph. S (1,107 assists); Sophia Treder, 6-0 jr. OH (210 kills, 296 digs).
Finals forecast: After Marian fell to rival Mercy in five sets during last season’s tournament, on the way to Mercy winning its first Finals championship, the Mustangs also were swept in their first two matches this season against the Marlins – before winning the last two in five sets, including in the Regional Final. Those two sets were the only ones Marian has given up this postseason. Cook coached Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard to the Class B title in 2015 and could have a special two or three-year run going with her entire starting lineup made up of sophomores and juniors. Brizard made the all-state first team, Sylvester and Sarafa made the second, and Treder earned honorable mention this fall.

CLARKSTON
Record/rank: 28-8, honorable mention
Coach: Kelly Pinner, 18th season (681-183-23)
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 3-0 (Regional Final) and 2-1 over No. 5 Utica Eisenhower, 2-1 and 3-2 over honorable mention Oxford, 3-2 over honorable mention Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, 2-0 over honorable mention Northville, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 4 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
Players to watch: Claire Nowicki, 5-11 sr. OH (385 kills, .323 hitting %, 287 digs); Summer Jidas, 5-4 jr. L (57 aces, 414 digs); Paige Giehtbrock, 6-0 soph. OH (230 kills); Sydney Hasenfratz, 6-0 sr. MB (174 kills, .425 hitting %, 112 blocks).
Finals forecast: The Wolves are back at the Semifinals for the first time since 2011 after winning their fourth league and third District championships over the last five seasons under the guidance of alum Pinner. They’ve won 10 of their last 11 matches, with the lone loss during that time to No. 9 Saline. Nowicki made the all-state first team, and Hasenfratz and Jidas earned honorable mentions.

LOWELL
Record/rank: 34-4, No. 3
Coach: Jordan Drake, third season (127-12-2)
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2019.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 10 Rockford in Regional Final, 3-0 (Regional Semifinal) and 3-0 over No. 4 Byron Center, 3-0 (District Final) and 3-1 over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 2-0 over No. 6 Ann Arbor Skyline, 3-0 over honorable mention Traverse City West, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Christian, 3-0 over Division 2 No. 2 Lake Odessa Lakewood, 2-0 over Division 3 No. 3 Cadillac, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 4 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
Players to watch: Sophie Powell, 5-8 sr. S (1,170 assists, .380 hitting %, 268 digs); Emma Hall, 5-11 sr. L (73 aces, 446 digs); Jenna Reitsma, 5-11 sr. OH (834 kills, .322 hitting %, 60 aces, 398 digs); Emily Struckmeyer, 6-0 jr. MH (258 kills, .317 hitting %, 61 blocks).
Finals forecast: The Red Arrows took Mercy to four sets in last season’s Division 1 championship match, and stormed back this fall to give up only 18 sets, with 11 of those in the four losses. Lowell avenged two of those defeats, against Grand Rapids Christian and Byron Center, and navigated arguably the toughest postseason tournament path in any division. Reitsma’s kills total this season ranks among the top 20 all-time despite the shortened schedule, and she with Powell and Hall made the all-state first team while Struckmeyer made the second. Reitsma also was a Miss Volleyball Award finalist.

NOVI
Record/rank: 29-4-1, No. 7
Coach: Kacy Bryon, third season (99-21-9)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 6 Ann Arbor Skyline in Quarterfinal, 3-2 (District opener), 3-0, 2-0 and 2-1 over honorable mention Northville, 2-1 over honorable mention Oxford.
Players to watch: Megha Gondi, 5-8 sr. MB (205 kills, .326 hitting %); Gaby Cummings, 5-10 sr. OH (217 kills); Rachel Kerr, 5-11 jr. S (786 assists, 137 kills, 200 digs, 53 aces); Rachel Jennings, 5-10 sr. L (544 digs, 47 aces).
Finals forecast: Novi has built back to Battle Creek following its run of three straight Class A titles from 2015-17, with this season seeing the team’s second-straight league and District titles and first Regional championship under Bryon. Five hitters total have at least 130 kills, with middle Caleigh Robinson (154 kills, .330 hitting %) and outside Sarah Vellucci (195 kills) also main contributors. Jennings was named to the all-state second team. The Wildcats are 16-1-1 over their last 18 matches following a 2-1 defeat to Marian.

Division 2

CADILLAC
Record/rank: 43-5, No. 3
Coach: Michelle Brines, 21st season (855-263-44)
League finish: First in Big North Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 over honorable mention Birch Run in Quarterfinal, 3-1 and 2-1 over No. 6 North Branch, 2-1 over honorable mention Grand Rapids West Catholic, 2-1 over No. 2 Lake Odessa Lakewood, 3-2 over Division 1 honorable mention Traverse City West, 2-1 over Division No. 3 Lowell.
Players to watch: Macy Brown, 5-11 sr. OH (911 kills, .300 hitting %, 84 blocks, 623 digs, 73 aces); Renee Brines, 5-8 jr. S (1,164 assists, 252 kills, 102 aces, 525 digs); Cailey Masserang, 6-1 jr. MH (180 kills, 55 blocks); Julia Jezak, 5-5 sr. L (568 digs, 61 aces).
Finals forecast: This will be Cadillac’s third trip to the Semifinals over the last seven seasons, and first since 2016, and comes as part of an incredible run of 13 league titles, 15 straight District titles and 12 Regional titles over 15 seasons. And there’s no arguing with the Vikings’ prep for this run – especially the win over Division 1 semifinalist Lowell among an impressive list of opponents this fall. Brown made the all-state first team – with her kills ranking among the top 10 in the MHSAA record book for a single season – while Renee Brines made the second team.

GRAND RAPIDS CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 29-4, No. 1
Coach: Tiffannie Gates, 10th season (452-86)
League finish: First in O-K White
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2018 and 2019.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 9 Ada Forest Hills Eastern in District Final, 3-0 (District Semifinal) and 2-0 over No. 10 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 2-0 over honorable mention Grand Rapids West Catholic, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 9 Saline, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 2 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 3-0 and 3-0 over Division 1 No. 8 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 3-2 and 2-1 over Division 1 No. 4 Byron Center, 3-0, 2-1 and 2-0 over Division 1 No. 10 Rockford; 3-1 over Division 1 No. 3 Lowell.
Players to watch: Addie VanderWeide, 6-0 sr. OH (540 kills, .338 hitting %, 342 digs); Lauren Peal, 5-8 sr. L (40 aces, 399 digs); Alyssa DeVries, 6-9 jr. S (1,040 assists, .316 hitting %, 210 digs); Evie Doezema, 6-3 jr. OH (308 kills).
Finals forecast: The Eagles are seeking their third straight Finals championship and loaded the schedule again this fall, with wins over six of the final top 10 in Division 1. VanderWeide was a Miss Volleyball Award finalist and with Peal made the all-state first team, while DeVries and Doezema made the second team. Senior middle Stephanie Stewart (170 kills, 58 blocks) joined Doezema, DeVries and VanderWeide in the starting lineup for last season’s championship match win over Lakewood as well, and Doezema and VanderWeide also started in the 2018 Final win over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.

LAKE ODESSA LAKEWOOD
Record/rank: 41-2, No. 2
Coach: Cameron Rowland, third season (127-24-2)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Activities Conference
Championship history: Class B champion 2012, five runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-1 (Regional Semifinal), 2-0 and 2-0 over honorable mention Marshall, 2-0 over No. 4 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 2-0 over No. 10 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 2-1 over No. 3 Cadillac, 2-0 over No. 9 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 3 Lowell, 2-0 over Division 4 No. 1 Mendon, 2-1 over Division 3 No. 2 Schoolcraft.
Players to watch: Aubrey O’Gorman, 6-4 sr. MB (444 kills, .497 hitting %, 109 blocks, 66 aces), Maradith O’Gorman, 6-2 jr. RS (504 kills, .379 hitting %, 78 blocks, 317 digs, 60 aces); Carley Piercefield, 5-6 fr. DS (532 digs); Skylar Bump, 5-7 soph. S (1,092 assists, 132 kills, .455 hitting %, 108 aces, 238 digs).
Finals forecast: The Vikings finished runner-up last season, three of the last four years and four of the last six seasons, and senior middle Sophie Duits joins the O’Gormans and Bump as returning starters from the 2019 championship match. Aubrey O’Gorman was a Miss Volleyball Award finalist and made the all-state first team with Maradith O’Gorman, while Piercefield and Bump made the second team. The only losses this fall came to Lowell and Division 3 top-ranked Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, and the Vikings avenged the Red Arrows defeat as part of a 34-match winning streak.

PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP
Record/rank: 38-9, No. 4
Coach: Betty A. Wroubel, 26th season (1,142-240-96)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), Division 2 runner-up 2018.  
Best wins: 3-0 (Quarterfinal) and 3-0 over honorable mention Warren Regina, 3-2 (Regional Final) over No. 6 North Branch, 3-2 (District Final) over No. 5 Detroit Country Day, 2-0, 2-0 and 3-0 over honorable mention Marshall.
Players to watch: Alyssa Borellis, 5-11 jr. S/RS (434 kills, 472 assists, .419 hitting %, 228 digs); Olivia Kowalkowski, 5-5 sr. L/DS (79 aces, 608 digs); Bianca Giglio, 5-9 jr. MH (294 kills, .324 hitting %, 43 blocks); Josephine Bloom, 5-6 sr. DS (392 digs, 155 assists).
Finals forecast: Notre Dame Prep is another regular at Kellogg, with this its fourth-straight trip to the Semifinals and sixth over the last eight seasons. Borellis, Giglio and Bloom all started in the 2018 championship match loss to Grand Rapids Christian, and Kowalkowski played a significant role on that team and joined them in the 2019 lineup as well. Borellis and Kowalkowski have been selected to the all-state first team, while Bloom made the second team, Giglio and junior outside hitter Sophia Sudzina (325 kills) made the third team and sophomore setter Margo Sudzina (570 assists) earned honorable mention.

Division 3

BEAVERTON
Record/rank: 32-5, No. 5
Coach: Steve Evans, 12th season (362-159-4)
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 3-0 over honorable mention Calumet in Quarterfinal, 3-0 (Regional Semifinal) and 2-0 over No. 7 Traverse City St. Francis, 2-0 over No. 9 Beal City.
Players to watch: Molly Gerow, 5-9 sr. OH (451 kills, .329 hitting %, 266 digs); Mady Pahl, 5-7 sr. S (822 assists, 148 kills, 60 aces, .312 hitting %); Becca Wirt, 5-6 sr. MH (122 kills); Hannah Stearns, 5-9 jr. OH (110 kills, 48 aces).
Finals forecast: Beaverton has continued a trophy-filled four-season run with its third league and second Regional titles in four seasons and fourth-straight District title. Beaverton’s only loss last season was in a Semifinal to eventual champ Monroe St. Mary, and now-sophomore middle Faith Danielak (34 blocks) joined Gerow, Pahl and Wirt in that starting lineup at Kellogg. The Beavers return to Battle Creek having not lost – or lost even a set – in 20 matches. Gerow made the all-state first team, and Pahl made the second this fall.

MONROE ST. MARY CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 37-2, No. 1
Coach: Karen O’Brien, sixth season (238-44-3)
League finish: First in Huron League
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), three runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-0 over honorable mention Bronson in Quarterfinal, 3-0 over honorable mention Manchester in Regional Final, 3-0 over honorable mention Hudson in Regional Semifinal, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 2 Lake Odessa Lakewood, 2-1 over Division 2 honorable mention Marshall, 3-1 over Division 1 No. 6 Ann Arbor Skyline.
Players to watch: Anna Dean, 5-10 sr. OH (249 kills, .361 hitting %); Abbie Costlow, 6-0 sr. MH (263 kills, 78 blocks, 77 aces, .513 hitting %); Mikayla Haut, 5-11 sr. OH (352 kills, .300 hitting % 55 aces); Kylie Barron, 5-11 sr. MH (137 kills, 97 blocks).
Finals forecast: The reigning Division 3 champion is making its third trip in a row to the Semifinals and seventh over the last decade. The Kestrels have won all of their postseason matches 3-0 and are on a 20-set winning streak with their only match losses this season to Skyline (in five sets) and Division 1 No. 9 Saline. Haut was a Miss Volleyball Award finalist and made the all-state first team with Dean and Costlow. Barron and junior setter Kate Collingsworth (497 assists, 121 digs, 49 aces, .671 hitting %) were named to the third team.

SAGINAW VALLEY LUTHERAN
Record/rank: 32-2, No. 3
Coach: Jon Frank, 15th season (508-227-65)
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-0 (Regional Semifinal) and 3-0 over honorable mention Unionville-Sebewaing, 3-2 over No. 5 Beaverton, 3-0 over Royal Oak Shrine Catholic in Quarterfinal.  
Players to watch: Sydney Krause, 5-9 sr. S (914 assists, 40 aces); Peyton Bartnikowski, 5-7 sr. OH (326 kills, 54 aces, 263 digs); Ashlyn Martin, 5-9 jr. MH (254 kills, 236 digs); Olivia Grimpo, 6-2 jr. M (217 kills).
Finals forecast: Valley Lutheran was set to make its second-straight appearance at the Semifinals before having to withdraw from the tournament Wednesday. The Chargers did win their sixth league and fifth District titles in seven seasons. Their only losses were to Division 2 Birch Run and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. Krause made the all-state second team, Bartnikowski made the third team and Martin earned honorable mention.

SCHOOLCRAFT
Record/rank: 36-3, No. 2
Coach: Erin Onken, ninth season (354-95-15)
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley 
Championship history: Class C champion 2008, two runner-up finishes. 
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 6 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, 3-0 over No. 8 Morley Stanwood, 3-0 over No. 7 Traverse City St. Francis, 2-0 over Division 4 No. 1 Mendon.
Players to watch: Maggie Morris, 5-11 sr. M (405 kills, .487 hitting %, 90 blocks); Kayla Onken, 5-8 sr. S (152 kills, .482 hitting %, 1,046 assists, 55 aces, 339 digs); Anna Schuppel, 6-1 sr. M (311 kills, .502 hitting %, 122 blocks); Allie Goldschmeding, 5-8 sr. OH (187 kills, .305 hitting %, 70 aces, 350 digs).
Finals forecast: Schoolcraft has run its streak of league titles under Erin Onken to all nine of her seasons leading the program, along with eight District titles, five Regional titles and a second-straight trip to the Semifinals during her tenure. Last season also saw the Eagles finish runner-up for the second time over those first eight seasons as they fell in a five-set Final to SMCC. Four of six starters are back from last season’s championship match, and those are four of five who earned all-state honors this fall. Morris and Kayla Onken made the first team, Schuppel made the second, and Allie Goldschmeding and senior libero Kelby Goldschmeding (536 digs, 60 aces) made the third team.

Division 4

AUBURN HILLS OAKLAND CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 26-4, No. 9
Coach: Brian Theut, first season (26-4)
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2016.
Best wins: 3-1 over honorable mention Ubly in Quarterfinal, 3-0 over No. 8 Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes in District Final, 2-0, 2-0 and 3-0 (Regional Semifinal) over Southfield Christian, 3-0 over Plymouth Christian Academy.
Players to watch: Katie Hopkins, 5-6 sr. S (623 assists, 167 digs); Anna Frazee, 5-9 jr. MB (181 kills, 41 aces); Kaylee Page, 5-7 sr. OH (200 kills, 158 digs); Micah Tison, jr. OH (183 kills, 38 aces, 209 digs).
Finals forecast: Oakland Christian had won six straight shutouts before Ubly took a set in the Quarterfinals, and in fact the Lancers won 23 matches this fall by shutout. All four of their losses this season were to larger schools. Hopkins was named to the all-state first team this fall, while Page made the second team and Frazee made the third. Theut previously was head varsity coach at White Lake Lakeland and Salem before taking over the Oakland Christian program.

BATTLE CREEK ST. PHILIP
Record/rank: 21-13, honorable mention
Coach: Vicky Groat, 23rd season (1,177-294-79)
League finish: First in South Central Athletic Association West
Championship history: 20 MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), nine runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 5 Lansing Christian in Quarterfinal, 3-1 over No. 7 New Buffalo in Regional Semifinal, 3-1 over No. 4 Camden-Frontier.
Players to watch: Rachel Myers, 5-7 jr. OH (946 assists, 71 aces, 205 digs); Harleen Deol, 5-7 sr. M (143 kills, 46 aces); Brooke Dzwik, 5-9 jr. OH (549 kills, 50 aces, 339 digs); Baily Fancher, 5-5 jr. L (54 aces, 417 digs).
Finals forecast: St. Philip has twice as many championships and more than twice as many championship match appearances as any other program in the state. But this will be a first-time experience for this team as the Tigers are back at the Semifinals for the first time since 2014. It could be the first of another few as Deol is the only senior. All but three losses this fall came to larger schools, and St. Philip avenged one with the win over Lansing Christian on Tuesday. Dzwik was named to the all-state first team this season, and Fancher made the third team.

CARNEY-NADEAU
Record/rank: 23-1, No. 10
Coach: Steve Kedsch, 19th season (331-203-42)
League finish: First in Skyline Central Conference Central
Championship history: Has never played in a championship match.
Best wins: 3-1 over Rudyard in Quarterfinal, 3-0 over Chassell in Regional Final, 2-0 over Kingsford.
Players to watch: Taylor Kedsch, 5-8 sr. OH (256 kills, .370 hitting %, 35 aces); Haley Ernest, 5-5 sr. S (541 assists, 37 aces); Liana Blahnik, 5-11 sr. MB (218 kills, .330 hitting %, 54 aces); Malorie Baumler, 5-7 jr. OH (69 aces)
Finals forecast: Rudyard on Tuesday became the only in-state opponent to take a set from Carney-Nadeau this season. The only other sets surrendered by the Wolves to any opponent came in the lone loss, to Peshtigo, Wis. Carney-Nadeau will be making its second Semifinal appearance in three seasons, having been stopped by Rudyard in the Quarterfinals a year ago. Kedsch is one of seven seniors on a roster of 11, and she made the all-state third team while Blahnik earned honorable mention.

MESICK
Record/rank: 24-2, unranked
Coach: Stacy Quiggin, fifth season (63-89-13)
League finish: First in West Michigan D League
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 3-2 over honorable mention Fowler in Quarterfinal, 3-1 over Gaylord St. Mary in Regional Semifinal, 3-2 over Manton.
Players to watch: Lexy Abraham, 5-8 jr. S (276 assists, 58 aces); Kelsey Quiggin, 5-9 soph. MH (160 kills, 56 aces, 186 digs); Grace Quiggin, 5-11 sr. OH (156 kills, 54 aces); Kaylee O’Neill, 5-1 sr. L (300 digs).
Finals forecast: Mesick is the lone unranked team making the trip to Kellogg Arena this weekend, but the program is on the map after improving at least a win each of the last four seasons and reaching the Semifinals for the first time. The only losses came to No. 2 Traverse City Christian and Division 3 Maple City Glen Lake, and Mesick has lost only 10 sets all season.

PHOTO: Lakewood’s Aubrey O’Gorman tips the ball over the net during her team’s Regional Final win over Lansing Catholic. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)