Novi wins first tile in Class A; Leland upsets St. Philip in D
Battle Creek – Revenge is sweet, especially in the state finals against a team that knocked you out last season.
Top-ranked Novi gained such revenge Saturday at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.
The Wildcats outlasted No. 6 ranked Romeo, 3-1, to claim the school’s first Class A state championship in girls volleyball.
Novi posted a 25-16, 20-25, 25-21, 25-17 victory to run the tables as the No. 1 team in Class A for the whole season.
The contest was a rematch of last season’s state title match, which Romeo won in a five-game thriller. All four classes saw the defending state champions go down via sweeps Saturday.
Pauline Iacobelli saved her best match for last, collecting a team-high 20 kills and a .435 attacking percentage to go along with 12 digs to pace Novi. Ally Cummings supplied 17 kills, Victoria Iacobelli added 13 kills, six aces and 14 digs, and Erin O’Leary dished out 47 assists for a balanced attack for the Wildcats, who appeared in third Final Four in the past decade.
“We talked about this ever since last season and we’ve dreamed about this all along,” said Pauline Iacobelli. “This is what we worked so hard for. When we lost to Romeo last year, we came so close. That gave us all the motivation in the world for this year.”
Novi (55-2-0) won over 100 games the last two seasons and walked off the court as a dominant team that has not tasted defeat since early September. The Wildcats lost in August to Class B state champion Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and to Farmington Hills Mercy in early September — a team Novi also avenged with a sweep in the regional finals.
“We knew this could be possible,” said Novi coach Jen Cottrill. “We had a ton of girls back and we were very focused all season. The girls wanted this more than anything and they played like it.
“I thought we did a fairly good job of containing (Romeo’s Gia Malina). We blocked her a few times and not too many teams the past couple of years have been able to slow her down,” continued Cottrill. “I think that was huge difference this season compared to last year. She’s an amazing player.”
Milana, who was recently named Miss Volleyball by the MIVCA as the state’s top senior, bowed out with 29 kills and 13 digs. Breanna Olley added 39 assists and 15 digs, and Erica LaBaere chipped in with eight kills for Romeo.
“We let them (dictate) play, and that’s not what we’ve done this year,” said Malina, who recently signed with Maryland.
The Bulldogs (48-8-1) tied the match at 1-1 after the second set, but could not keep the momentum on their end of the court.
“The hardest thing about this is not the loss. We lost to a great team. But it’s the thought that I won’t be able to coach this group of seniors anymore,” said Romeo coach Stacy Williams. “They have meant so much to this program, getting to the finals two years in a row. What an amazing group of kids.”
Leland pulled off the shocker of the weekend as the Comets upset Battle Creek St. Philip Catholic in the Class D final on Saturday at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.
Third-ranked Leland captured the Class D state title with a 3-0 win over second-ranked St. Philip — the nine-time defending state champs.
The Comets zipped a 25-20, 25-23, 25-23 trail to end St. Philips’ streak. Leland was the last team to defeat the Tigers in the state tournament, and that was a five-game thriller in the winter 2006 season state finals.
Leland has now won five titles — 2015, ‘06, ‘02, ‘80 and ‘78.
“We’ll take it any time, any year. It’s never easy and something that you can never take for granted,” noted Leland coach Laurie Glass.
“I thought we stuck to our game plan, which is a fast offense,” continued Glass. “We kept coming at them and that’s why we were so successful. We keep teams on their heals.”
Second-ranked St. Philip had won 20 state titles and was appearing in its 29th MHSAA state title match — both are MHSAA records. The Tigers have also reached the Class D Final Four in 33 of 41 years of the MHSAA tournament, also a sizable state record.
Leland (49-7-4) was paced by senior Maddie Trumbull with 14 kills and 14 digs. Freshman Allie Martin added six kills and 15 digs, senior ViAnna Hennig chipped in with six kills and freshman Ella Siddall added 30 assists for the Comets.
“I think losing in the Final Four (two years ago) and in the state finals last year motivated us this year,” offered Trumbull. “Ever since that day last year, we vowed to come back and win it this year.”
St. Philip coach Vicky Groat looked at the big picture of what the program has been able to accomplish in 40-plus years.
“To be in the Final Four 33 times and to be in the state championship match 15 straight times is an accomplishment in its own right,” she said. “We won nine in a row. We knew eventually the streak would come to an end. But it came against Leland and Laurie Glass. There’s no shame losing in the state finals to a team like Leland.”
Senior Abby McKinzie had 14 kills and 17 digs and junior Taylor Passetti added 26 assists for St. Philip Catholic (46-16-2), which has an all-time record of 51-13 in contests played in the Class D Final Four.