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D1 VOLLEYBALL SEMIS: No. 1 Mercy gets past ghosts of previous semifinal stumbles, sweeps Skyline to get to title match

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, November 21, 2019, 8:17 pm

BATTLE CREEK — They weren’t going to let it happen this time.

With ghosts of semifinal stumbles sticking in their head from previous seasons — including last year’s five-set loss to eventual champ Lake Orion — No. 1-ranked Farmington Hills Mercy was NOT going to let it happen again.

The Marlins (57-1) got out to an early lead against Ann Arbor Skyline (54-9) and never looked back, sweeping the Eagles, 25-13, 25-15, 25-15, to move on to Saturday’s Division 1 championship match.

“Yeah, we didn’t want to take any chances tonight,” said senior Jess Mruzik, admitting the win was a relief after years past. “Yeah, it does. I was kind of worried about this match, just from a mental perspective. Our team did a really nice job. We were really headstrong today, and that’s what got us through it.”

Mercy will face No. 2 Lowell (55-3), a four-set winner over Lake Orion in Thursday’s other D1 semifinal. [For pairings, CLICK HERE.]

The Marlins have never won a volleyball title, the closest a runner-up finish in the 2010 Class A finals, when they lost to rival Birmingham Marian. 

In 2017, Mercy lost to rival Marian in the semis again, this time in four sets, after winning the first set handily. In 2009, Mercy lost to Marian in the semis in a three-set sweep.

“I think our mindset coming into this one was a lot different than the last two times we’ve been here,” Mruzik said. “Last year, we were obviously focused on the year before, kind of playing with the mindset not to lose, and we came into this year, thinking ‘we want to win.’ We’re not focusing on losing.”

Skyline got 20 total kills from the Murray sisters — senior Kendall (seven) and freshman Harper (13), but Mercy held the Eagles to .115 hitting as a team. The Marlins hit .407 as a team, led by Mruzik, who had 26 kills on .510 hitting. Ellie Tisko added 11, while Charlie Atiemo had eight. Amina Robinson had 13 digs, Mruzik 12 and Madi Malecki 10. 

“I was playing for my team tonight. We came in with a ton of energy. I was trying to hype them up, and that’s when we play our best. We play our best when we’re having fun, and have a lot of energy. We wanted to be in the match on Saturday, and that’s where we are now,” said Mruzik, who was named Miss Volleyball on Monday. “Ultimately, all of the accolades, they’re not what’s important to me. What’s important to me, is I love the sport and I love my team.”