Charyl Stockwell Prep Academy gets milestone-filled MIAC volleyball win over No. 5-ranked Southfield Christian
HOWELL — When you can count the official age of your program on one hand, it’s pretty certain that firsts and milestones will come along with relative regularity.
Still, one or two can sneak up on you.
When Charyl Stockwell Preparatory Academy volleyball coach Paula Gallentine spent her team’s week off making some slight tweaks to her team’s rotation, as well as brushing up on some statistical bookkeeping, she realized just in time for Tuesday’s match that one of those milestones was looming.
Coming into the Tuesday showdown with the No. 5-ranked team in Division 4, Southfield Christian, Gallentine figured out that her daughter, junior setter/outside hitter Paige, was sitting at 980 career kills.
Twenty kills is a big number, but just to be safe, the elder Gallentine had a parent print up some hand-held signs — saying either “Congratulations Paige” or “1,000 kills” — to be given out to the crowd, just in case.
“I figured we’d have to go to five for her to have a chance at it,” the coach said. “I’m glad I got them done.”
The crowd had a chance to wave them in the fifth and deciding set when Paige Gallentine got her 20th, 21st and 22nd kills of the night, passing the millennium mark as CSPA won, 25-20, 15-25, 25-17, 16-25, 15-12.
“I had no idea,” Paige Gallentine admitted. “I did look over (at the crowd), and I saw them, but I didn’t realize it was for me.”
You can’t blame her for being more focused on a match that could’ve gone either way at any point, right down to the final few serves. Milestones are something you talk about after the match.
But that wasn’t even the only reason that Tuesday’s match was momentous in the history of a program that only dates back to 2013.
It was also the first time a Charyl Stockwell volleyball team had gotten a league win. The Sentinels applied for admission to the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference (MIAC) last year, and were accepted for the 2017-18 school year.
Tuesday was their first match of league competition, and here they were, facing an Eagles team that lost in the Class D quarterfinals a year ago.
“Today was a first. Absolutely. Last year, we had our first-ever tournament trophy — ever. We got our first-ever, and then we got three in a row,” Paula Gallentine said. “That was a talk we had going into tonight: ‘For the first time ever, this school is finally in a league. You guys can compete for a league title.’ We went undefeated the last two years in weekday play, but never got to hold up a banner, or a trophy, or anything to celebrate anything at all. Do you see a single banner (in the gym)? The girls have never made all-tournament teams, or gotten all-league anything. So we talked about that, and working towards enjoying that this year.
“And here I’m throwing a new lineup at them to start it off.
“When we had that talk yesterday, I said ‘You guys have been undefeated the last two years in quote-unquote league play. And then to have to play a No. 5-ranked team.’ To have to tell them that yesterday … and then have to go right into league play today. If they would’ve let that one go, that would’ve been a tough one for them. Thank goodness that came out the way it did.”
It’s just another step for a program that’s come jumping ahead by leaps and bounds since its inception six years ago, another rung to climb.
In 2005-06, the charter school district built its gymnasium at the elementary campus, which sits off M-59 near the junction with US-23 — the high school, which is just less than nine miles away, on the north side of Brighton, does not have a gymnasium that’s properly equipped to house competitions — then started its first athletic programs (boys and girls middle school basketball and cheer) one school year later.
The volleyball program was started with a middle school varsity and junior varsity and high school junior varsity teams in 2012-13, with high school varsity volleyball added in 2013-14.
The next season was the probationary year before joining the Michigan High School Athletic Association, while 2015-16 was the first year of eligibility for the MHSAA postseason.
The program has moved from obscurity to relevance quickly, going from a complete unknown to a known commodity in the blink of an eye, even briefly grabbing the No. 1 ranking in Class C in the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll almost exactly one calendar year ago.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s crazy, because people don’t know who we are. When that happens, they’re like ‘Oh, who’s that?’ Or when they see our name before they play us, they may think ‘Oh, I don’t think they’re that good,’ just because we’re a small school. But being a small school doesn’t mean we’re going to be less skilled,” Paige Gallentine said. “(The No. 1 ranking) was cool. We all just felt like it was crazy, like ‘Oh, my gosh. We’re No. 1!’ It wasn’t for long, but it was nice to have that for a couple of days. It’s OK that people didn’t recognize us, because we were No. 1, but we’re still growing.”
Coaches being coaches, it didn’t resonate nearly as much with her mother.
“You kinda gotta ignore all that, to be honest with you. I think paying attention to that actually distracts you. I have to say I am proud of what the girls have put into the program. The girls that are graduating this year — my libero (Theresa Kehn), for example, she started the year the program started. She’s my first year all the way through, from beginning to end. That’s a little bittersweet for me this year,” Paula Gallentine said of the senior, who is committed to play for Calvin College. “The girls have just put so much into it, and that’s why they’re getting — you get out what you put into it. I don’t know if we’ll ever win a state championship, but we’re certainly proud of (what we’ve done), in just the five years we’ve been a program, and the third year in the MHSAA, (and) to be in the top 10 was exciting, yeah.”
The ranking also didn’t mean much when it came tournament time.
They lost in the first round of last year’s districts, albeit to a Laingsburg team that finished as the Class C runner-up.
“It was crazy how we had one of the toughest teams the first district match. The year before that, we had a bye in the first round, so we were going into it slower. But yet we still we knew what we were up against,” Paige Gallentine said. “We’re never won districts, not in our whole school history. Not since this whole thing started. When I was in fourth grade was when our volleyball (program) started. No one, not any sport, has won a district. So this year, if we do end up getting there, and winning it, it would be so crazy.”
The Sentinels got close in 2016, losing 3-2 to Lansing Christian in the Class D district finals, after beating Morrice in the semis.
Playing in a league like the MIAC, with established programs like No. 5-ranked Southfield Christian, as well as Plymouth Christian (No. 1 in D4) and Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (No. 8 in D4), will only make the Sentinels better.
“(The league game) was fun, because last year, and the year before that, we didn’t have much competition when it came to this, because we played schools nearby, but smaller,” Paige Gallentine said. “So it wasn’t as tough a competition as now.’
That ramping up of the competition level has been intentional.
“Because of this kind of being a culminating year … we created the toughest schedule we’ve ever faced. I told the girls that in preseason. I said, ‘You’ve never played a tougher schedule than you’re going to play this season. I need you to stay mentally focused on that, that it’s designed that way on purpose, that we’re under pressure from the beginning to the end, not just every once in a while. I think that’s what the difference is to get you guys as far as possible at the end. But you have to be OK with managing that, day-to-day,’’ Paula Gallentine said. “Right now, we came into this match 5-7. We were actually 1-6 for a week or so, because we were playing big schools, Class A schools. As long as we’re going (up), it’s all part of the plan. It’s OK. So just don’t turn into soup sandwiches on me, because of the records.”
That’s also why the coach felt it necessary to tweak the rotation, in the hopes of finding that sweet spot, moving 6-foot-4 junior Lila Splavec from the right side (where she plays in club season) back to the middle, where she’s always played for the Sentinels.
Even with a few bumps for the whole squad adjusting to the new rotation, Splavec finished with 13 kills, while Paige Gallentine had 22 kills and 23 assists, and Jenna Vaske had 16 kills and 22 assists. Kehn had 23 digs.
“We are not at a point where we’ve found our chemistry, the bumps are all smoothed out. Who knows what I might throw at them, after playing this rotation this week?” Paula Gallentine said. “I keep telling the girls, ‘We’re not going to win a state championship in the preseason, in the early season.’ What we’re doing now is we’re figuring things out. It’s really what we need to get to in the next four weeks or so.”
Emily Van Dyke had 16 kills, four blocks and 16 digs to lead Southfield Christian (7-3-1, 1-1 MIAC), while Caitlin Warnshuis had 14 kills and nine digs, and Rachel Stiteler had 25 assists.