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Novi completes three-peat; Notre Dame Prep wins another Class B title

By: Dan Stickradt, November 18, 2017, 7:35 pm

Battle Creek – Within its long list of accomplishments the past few years, Novi achieved a feat on the volleyball court that hasn’t happened in Class A in more than two decades.

The second-ranked Wildcats captured their third straight state title with a 3-0 sweep of No. 7 Birmingham Marian, topping the Mustangs 25-23, 25-9, 25-23 at Kellogg Arena on Saturday in Battle Creek.

Novi became the first three-peat school in Class A since Portage Northern won four straight titles from 1992-95. Northern also won three straight from 1985-87.

Behind Miss Volleyball winner, Erin O’Leary, the No. 1-rated setter in the country, Novi reached the title game for the fourth straight year. The Wildcats lost in the 2014 finals only to real off three straight titles and record a four-year record of 218-12-1. 

“I honestly don’t know if they understand the magnitude of all they have accomplished,” offers Novi coach Jen Cottrill. “I mean being here all four years with a state runner-up and three state championships. It’s incredible.”

There are four current players that were on Novi’s roster in 2014, two of whom played the entire season and two postseason call-ups.

“It’s different because this is the last time most of us will play together,” said O’Leary. “We have so many seniors. It’s been an amazing four years.”

Marian competed well in Game 1 and Game 3 but had no answers in Game 2. The Wildcats (56-3-0) had enough firepower in the end.

It marked Marian’s first title-game appearance since 2013 when the Mustangs lost to East Grand Rapids. This run came under a new coach, Lauren Duquette, and featured numerous wins against other teams in the top 20. 

“Here we are playing the defending state champions Novi and I thought we did a fantastic job maintaining our composure and competing with them,” said Duquette. “We did a fantastic job in the third set of battling back, dropping the negative body language and energy and stayed with them.

“We came a long ways this season. We went though many (changes) and someone should write a documentary about all the changes we made in three-and-a-half months. We beat some very good teams to get here.”

O’Leary, who signed with Michigan, capped her four-year career with 33 assists against only one error to go along with 11 kills and nine digs. Abryanna Cannon had 18 kills, 15 digs and two blocks, Claire Pinkerton had 16 digs, and Kathryn Ellison followed with 14 digs and three aces for Novi.

“This group have left such a legacy,” said Cottrill. “We’re going to miss this group and everything they did for our program.”

The Mustangs held leads of 14-12 and 16-14 in Game 3 but could not keep Novi at bay.

“We’re a young team with only three seniors and Novi has a ton of experience. They are mostly seniors and have been here before,” said Duquette. “That might have been the difference. We hope to be back.”

Christine Audette had seven kills, Maddie Dow added 18 assists, and Sarah Cavanaugh contributed 13 digs for Marian (45-13-1).


Class B

Top-ranked Notre Dame Prep runs course to win third title in 11 years


Pontiac Notre Dame Prep put the finishing touches on a record-setting season Saturday.

The top-ranked Fighting Irish finished 64-2-2 record, a new school mark for wins in a campaign, and capped the season with 53 consecutive victories following a 3-0 sweep of third-ranked Lake Odessa Lakewood in the Class B state finals at Kellogg Arena.

N.D. Prep outlasted Lakewood 25-16, 25-17, 28-26 to cap the extraordinary season. The Irish have not lost a match since defeats to Class A schools Lake Orion and Farmington Hills Mercy in August and have not dropped a set since a 2-1 victory over Troy at the Beast of the East Invitational in early October. 

It marked the third state title for the Irish in four trips to the semifinals, with the other championships coming in the fall 2007 season and 2013.

“I stopped telling all the papers of the how many wins we’ve had in a row because of the pressure. All the (reporters) kept reminding us about the streak. It is very impressive. There is some pressure with all of that and being the top-ranked school. Everyone is gunning for you,” N.D. Prep coach Betty Wroubel said. “I couldn’t be prouder of this group of girls. They worked so hard at not only playing with the pressure, but playing together with the same goal.”

Natalie Risi had 19 kills, Gabbie Shilling was a perfect 19-for-19 attacking with 12 kills, Lauren Burnick had 42 assists and 12 digs, Morgan Veryeyen had eight kills and Maddie Chinn added seven kills as part of the Irish’s arsenal of weapons.

N.D. Prep lost in the semifinals to North Branch in 2014.

“For myself and Lauren Burnick, we were here as a freshmen and we knew how hard it is to get here. We wanted to get back to Battle Creek and we accomplished that,” said Shilling. “So anything else like winning a state championship is really just a bonus.”

It marked the third time in four seasons that Lakewood lost in the Class B state finals and each time it’s been to a different school.

“We’re not a team of Division Is and Division IIs, college players. This is who we are. But we go out there and play hard every game and it shows,” said Lakewood coach Kellie Rowland. “We battled them tough. They are a great team and no other Class B team has played them this tough all season.”

Alivia Benedict had 10 kills and 12 digs, Breanna Wickerink added 10 kills, Kayla Sauers picked up 32 assists and Patsy Morris had 16 digs for Lakewood (47-6-2).