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Oakland Christian, Plymouth Christian to meet in Class D final after four-set semifinal victories

By: Dan Stickradt, November 18, 2016, 7:15 pm

(Photos Hockey Weekly | MHSAA Network)


Battle Creek – Auburn Hills Oakland Christian has never enjoyed the sensation of playing on the final day of the volleyball season.

Until now.

The sixth-ranked Lancers rallied for a 3-1 victory on Friday over Rogers City in a Class D state semifinal at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena. 

Oakland Christian prevailed 23-25, 25-4, 25-16, 25-14 to advance to a state final for the first time. The win also gives retiring Lancers coach Priscilla Larned a shot at winning a state title. 

“This is what we wanted,” Larned daid.

Oakland Christian (43-4-5) lost its previous five semifinal appearances. 

In an extremely rare feat, two teams from the same conference will square off for the state championship.

Top-ranked Plymouth Christian downed No. 3-ranked and defending state champion Leland, 3-1, in the other semifinal.

Plymouth Christian, which lost in this round last season to Battle Creek St. Phillip, finished off Leland 25-15, 25-16, 26-28, 25-15 to earn its shot at the title. The championship game will start at 10 a.m.  

Plymouth Christian (34-11-3) and Oakland Christian shared the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue Division title with 9-1 records.

“It is an unusual situation,” said Plymouth Christian coach D.J. Kellogg. “Having two teams from the same league in the final. I mean I hope we win. But (Oakland Christian coach) Priscilla (Larned) has been around for 32 years and they have been playing really well. It should be a great game.”

This is the first time in the Class D tourney that league rivals will meet for the state title and the first time since 2010 when Catholic League Central Division foes Birmingham Marian and Farmington Hills Mercy met in the Class A final.

This will mark the first time since 2004 that Leland or Battle Creek St. Phillip will not win the state title. Only five different schools have won a state title in Class D over the past two decades.

For Oakland Christian, Larned said her team never lost their poise.

“There was a moment in the fourth set where no one went for the ball on their point,” Larned said. “But they did not put each other down. They always pick each other back up and that’s what makes this group so special. We’re finally going to play in the state final.”

Unforced errors allowed Rogers City, rated on the honorable mention list in the polls, to steal the first game as the Hurons (35-11-1) stormed back from a 23-20 deficit to close with a 5-0 run

The Lancers responded by holding Rogers City to only four points in the second set and closing the second game with a 13-0 run. Alexandra Gudobba, a four-year varsity player, served on the run that included four aces.

“I told them that ‘we got this’.” Gudobba said. “We just needed to calm down and play our game.”

The Lancers did just that, racing out to a 7-1 lead in the second game, a 10-7 advantage in the next and an 8-5 lead in the fourth before pulling away in each set. Rogers City led only briefly in the third and fourth sets. 

Gudobba had 19 kills with 14 digs and Marisa Mingle added 10 kills, 14 digs and three aces. Samantha Morse contributed 10 kills and 33 assists for the Lancers. 

Oakland Christian lost in the semifinals in 1998, 2002, 2007, 2010 and 2013. 

Rogers City, making its first semifinals appearance since 2003, could never retain the momentum.

“Oakland Christian has some really good players. Their setter is very good and they have a lot of really good hitters,” Rogers City coach Jackie Quaine said. “We’re young. We had a sophomore middle (hitter) and a junior middle (hitter) out there and another sophomore hitter that started. It was great experience for this team.”

Kayla Rabeau (nine) and Taylor Fleming teamed for 17 kills for Rogers City, and Erika Peacock had 14 assists.