GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Oakland Christian miracle comeback lifts Lancers to state semifinals for fifth time
BY DAN STICKRADT
WHITMORE LAKE — Amazing.
If there is one word that Priscilla Larned uses to describes Tuesday’s victory and the entire season for Auburn Hills Oakland Christian’s girls volleyball team, it’s the latter.
Not only is her team unranked and unheralded — and still alive in the postseason — but Oakland Christian won its Class C state quarterfinals match Tuesday in dramatic fashion to reach the Final Four for the first time in 15 seasons.
After trailing Ottawa Lake-Whiteford, 2-0, and on the brink of elimination in Game 3, the Lancers turned the tides to record a 3-2 victory at Whitmore Lake High School. The Lancers’ grand comeback featured a 19-25, 9-25, 27-25, 25-17, 15-8 match that took more than two hours to complete.
“Amazing,” said Larned. “In all of my years of coaching, we haven’t had too many comebacks like this, especially in the (state) tournament.”
The Lancers reached the state semifinals in 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2009 and had lost in the state quarterfinals five other times in Larned’s 29-year coaching career at Oakland Christian. This is the first time in the three years that Oakland Christian has been in Class C that the Lancers have reached the Final Four. All other trips to the semifinals came in Class D.
“I thought that looking at our district and the potential teams in our regional that a regional championship could be possible,” admitted Larned. “The girls wanted to get Battle Creek as their goal. But I never imagined it would happen with this group. It was a surprise the first time we made it and it’s a surprise this time.
“It’s even a surprise that we did it in the fashion we won by (Tuesday),” said Larned. “We lost 25-9 in Game 2 and we were tied at 25-25 in Game 3. That could have gone either way and we could have went home. But the girls were resilient and they found a way to come back and win it. Now we get to go to Battle Creek. Amazing. Simply amazing.”
Oakland Christian (38-7-8) will face third-ranked Beal City at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena with the hopes of advancing to Saturday’s state finals for the first time. Whiteford finishes 45-8-2.
“We lost to Whiteford in the U-M Dearborn Tournament and that was Sept. 7,” recalled Larned.”We are a different team now. Our defense has been so strong and we keep finding ways to win. But I had to challenge them. We need to do a better job at teamwork, having guts, being determined and communicate better. We started to do that and we won the final three sets to beat them.
“We have been here before with unraked teams,” continued Larned.”We would rather be
In the pivotal Game 3, Whiteford, honorable mention in the polls, tied the game at 23-23, 24-24 and 25-25, only to see the Lancers score the final two points.
The Lancers were the aggressor in Game 4 and Game 5, as senior Marcella Compeau led the charge. She collected seven kills in Game 4 and four more in Game 5 en route to a match-high 19 kills for Oakland Christian.
Oakland Christian opened Game 5 with a 9-3 run and finally fended off the Bobcats.
“We could have easily folded, but we kept it up and came back. I thought we looked stronger than they did in the last game,” said Larned. “We seemed to get stronger after we didn’t look very good the first couple of games.”
Samantha Durrant added 15 kills and Katie Willson followed with nine kills for Oakland Christian.