Battle Creek — It was easy to see Erin O’Leary was enjoying herself. A junior setter and Michigan commit, she knows how special the big stage of the volleyball Final Four really is.
And Friday, she was a shining star as she helped Novi reach the Class A final — and a shot to repeat as champion — with a 25-14, 25-12, 25-15 victory over Fenton. Novi plays Rockford at 2 p.m. today for the championship.
“It definitely doesn’t feel like just any regular game, and we were all really looking forward to this,” said O’Leary, who finished with 43 assists as Novi (53-1) hit at a .418 clip. “It’s an amazing atmosphere.”
O’Leary didn’t do it alone.
Kathryn Ellison, a 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter, had a career night with 17 kills and a .577 hitting percentage. She had nine kills in Game 2.
“Kathryn touches almost 10 feet and their right front block was significantly smaller, so it was a huge mismatch, something we saw on film and something we wanted to go after,” Novi coach Jennifer Cottrill said. “She stepped up and played awesome.”
Ellison started the season on the bench (ankle), missing Novi’s lone loss, to Clarkston.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all season,” Ellison said. “Just getting back to Battle Creek is such an accomplishment and now we’re back in the finals. I’m so excited to continue this journey with my team.”
Miss Volleyball runnerup Ally Cummings, a 5-11 outside hitter, had 15 kills (.625 hitting percentage) and a team-high 13 digs, and 6-1 junior outside hitter Abryanna Cannon had 11 kills. Still, Novi’s success starts with O’Leary.
“Erin is obviously the catalyst ... and she can get us back in system even if she’s 15 feet off the net,” Cotrrill said. “We are 90 percent of the time in system, and that allows our attackers to be very successful.
“All five of our attackers can hit the ball at a very high rate so we’re able to, from the sidelines and with Erin’s information, see where they are cheating toward and then we change.”
Chloe Idoni had 11 kills, and Kiley Aldred had 19 assists for Fenton (46-5-3).
It’s a first for Priscilla Larned — after 32 years.
The Auburn Hills Oakland Christian coach is making her first appearance in the Class D state final after a 23-25, 25-4, 25-16, 25-14 victory over Rogers City.
“This is an incredible day for us,” Larned said. “The kids just made history at school for the volleyball program.”
Oakland Christian (42-4-5) faces rival Plymouth Christian (33-11-3) in today’s final. The teams split their regular-season matches. Plymouth Christian defeated defending state champion Leland, 25-15, 25-16, 26-28, 25-15.
All matches at Battle Creek
Novi 3, Fenton 0
Rockford 3, Temperance Bedford 2
Today’s final: 2 p.m.
North Branch 3 Buchanan 2
Lake Odessa Lakewood 3, Cadillac 1
Today’s final: 4 p.m.
Brown City 3, Adrian Madison 2
Bronson 3, Calumet 0
Today’s final: Noon
A.H. Oakland Christian 3, Rogers City 1
Plymouth Christian 3, Leland 1
Today’s final: 10 a.m.