GIRLS VOLLEYBALL CLASS B SEMIFINALS: Top-ranked Notre Dame Prep downs No. 2 Wayland to reach first title game since 2007
BY DAN STICKRADT
BATTLE CREEK — Katherine Carlson saw some open space in the corner. Instead of just blasting it, she placed her kill perfectly to the open floor.
That was the game-clincher for Pontiac Notre Dame Prep Friday night at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena, where the Fighting Irish moved one step closer to their ultimate goal.
The top-ranked team in Class B for most of the season, Notre Dame Prep outlasted Wayland Union, 3-1, in the state semifinals to reach the state finals for the first time since 2007. The Irish were crowned state champions that season on the same floor.
“It’s so awesome,” said Carlson, an All-American as a sophomore and one of the many weapons in the Irish’s deep arsenal. “This was so much fun. It’s like a dream.”
Carlson, who finished with 24 kills and was 55-for-60 attacking, was able to end the ordeal that featured the top two teams in Class B with her perfectly-placed ball.
“I just saw the tip, saw the (corner) was open and hit it over there. I just can’t believe it,” she said of the game-winning hit.
Notre Dame Prep posted a 25-14, 19-25, 25-22, 25-23, narrow triumph over second-ranked Wayland (60-6-12), which was trying to reach the finals for the first time.
Notre Dame Prep will face fifth-ranked Grand Rapids South Christian, which swept No. 7 Cadillac in the other semifinal Friday, 3-0. The title game is set for around 7 p.m. Saturday night.
“It gets harder. There wasn’t an easy team here,” offered Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wrubel of the Final Four featuring four of the top seven ranked teams. “You can’t get to the Final Four without a tough road. There are all great teams with great coaches. I can’t believe some of the coaches that are here and the talent that is here.”
Notre Dame Prep outlasted No. 3 North Branch in a five-set thriller during Tuesday’s state quarterfinals, which helped the Irish handle the pressure of being in the Final Four.
“I think our North Branch win held us tonight. That was pressure-filled, the gym was packed and under this same kind of pressure,” said Wrubel. “That was only three days ago when we played under this kind of pressure. We did all right. We’re a seasoned team, a very confident team, and we play good defense, although it wasn’t how I like it today. Wayland had something to do with that. There are no more practices, so we’ll have to take what we have (to the finals).”
Notre Dame Prep was humming along like a fine-tuned engine during Game 1, which ended with a Carlson kill down the middle. In Game 2, Wayland’s assortment of hitters got untracked and the Wildcats evened the match with a 25-19 edge in the set.
The third set saw Prep hold leads of 8-3 and 15-10 before holding off Wayland down the stretch. The Wildcats closed to within 23-19 before a kill from McCormick and another Carlson kill ended the rally.
Neither team could build a lead larger than three points in Game 4, and Wayland Union
built advantages of 21-19, 21-20 and 22-21. Notre Dame Prep tied the game with a McCormick kill and went ahead 23-22 with another McCormick blast.
Wayland tied the set one last time at 23-23, only to see a McCormick hit get tipped out of bounds for a 24-23 Irish advantage. Carlson finished off the match with her game-clincher.
“It is so surreal. It hasn’t set in yet that we are playing in the state finals,” said McCormick. “This was our goal all along and now we are getting the chance to play for the state championship.”
Samantha Geivett served up 49 assists to Wayland Union’s attackers and added 12 digs for the Wildcats. Allison Getty finished 60-for-70 with 29 kills, Krissy Dill was 39-for-45 attacking with 10 kills and 18 digs, while Rachel Vanderbaan supplied seven kills and 18 digs for Wayland.
“They are a very good team. I thought we matched up with them very well,” said Wayland Union coach Kim Detty. “I thought if we could have won Game 4, then anything could have happened.”