St. Philip sets state record with another title
Battle Creek – This one is for the record books.
Battle Creek St. Philip Catholic captured its unprecedented ninth straight Class D girls volleyball state championship in the familiar confines of Kellogg Arena Saturday, topping top-ranked Leland, 3-1.
The Fighting Tigers, who entered the state tournament ranked third, posted a 25-18, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17 victory to maintain their dominance as the state’s premier small-school power.
St. Philip had shared the Michigan High School Athletic Association record with Marysville (Class B, 1997-2004) with eight straight state titles. The Tigers have reached the Final Four 32 times over a 40-year period and have now won 19 state titles with eight state runner-up finishes.
“At the beginning of the season we had our doubts,” admitted veteran coach Vicky Groat, who over 17 seasons has amassed a stellar 962-189-90 record at St. Philip. “We worked really hard to get back here — it wasn’t easy. We didn’t have that one dominate player this year. We worked well as a team and we were able to make it back to the Final Four.”
Leland (43-13-4) became the first school to have even win a set against St. Phillip in the state finals since Birmingham Roeper edged the Tigers 25-23 in the third set of the fall 2007 season. St. Phillip downed Roeper 3-1 for the title that season, which was the second title in the streak.
“I thought once we won that game, that we might have a chance,” said Leland coach Laurie Glass. “But St. Philip does not make a lot of mistakes. We couldn’t keep the momentum.
“I know it’s an amazing accomplishment just to get down here. The last time for us was 2006,” added Glass. “I’m glad that this group of girls had the experience of coming here. The played with a large target on their backs with the No. 1 ranking for most of the season.”
Leland, making its ninth visit to the state finals, slipped to 3-6 in title games matches. Ironically, Leland was the last team to defeat St. Phillip in the state finals with a 3-2 victory in 2006.
Maddie Trumbell was 50-for-60 attacking with 16 kills to lead Leland. Jessica Fleis had 37 assists and nine digs, Eva Grobbel had 11 kills and Miranda Harrison scooped up 24 digs for the Comets.
Being handed the loss in the third set, St. Philip regrouped to take the title trophy back home. The Tigers first won a title in 1979 with a 2-1 victory over Leland.
Senior Abbey McKenzie finished 59-for-62 attacking with a team-best 13 kills to lead a blanched effort for St. Philip (54-12-4). Megan Parker added 12 kills, Emily Schaub had 32 assists, and Kameron Haley had 21 digs — once of five players to have at least 14 digs on the day.
“I know there was some pressure,” said Groat. “This group didn’t want to be the group that didn’t get to the Final Four, or play in the state championship game or be the team that didn’t win a state championship. They got here and beat the team that was No. 1 in the state for most of the year. That shows you what type of kids we have in this group.”