Briggs leads No. 2 Lake Orion to state semifinal win over top-ranked Mercy
Battle Creek — It was a heavyweight showdown in the Division 1 semifinals Friday evening at Kellogg Arena with Paige Briggs putting on a show to help No. 2 Lake Orion upset top-ranked Farmington Hills Mercy 20-25, 25-18, 25-27, 25-20, 15-13.
“That win right there, probably nobody except for us thought that we were going to pull that off,” Lake Orion fifth-year head coach Tony Scavarda said. “They were the best team, No. 1 from start to finish of this high school season. We knew that if we were going to beat them we had to play pretty much close to perfect. I’m very proud of these guys.
“We just knew we had to play clean, play tough and know where Jess (Mruzik) was on their side of the net at all times and trying to account for her. We had a game plan, kind of the same stuff that we did every time against them. We just did it better tonight."
Mercy (52-3) had won three of the four previous matches between the teams this season. Lake Orion (67-6) will play Rockford — a 25-13, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21 winner over Northville — in Saturday's 2 p.m. final. Lake Orion will be looking for its first state title, having lost to Rockford in the 2011 championship match.
The two-hour marathon — which went the five-set limit — showcased Briggs and Mercy 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter Jess Mruzik, who is considered one of the favorites for next year’s Miss Volleyball.
Briggs had 43 kills and an outstanding .429 hitting percentage with 31 kills coming in the final three sets.
“It’s amazing, just feels so awesome,” said Briggs, who finished fifth in voting for Miss Volleyball this week and is headed to Western Kentucky. “There’s no words for it, the best game of my life.”
Mruzik came out with seven kills in the opening set to set the tempo for Mercy. But, Briggs rallied her team with eight kills without an error in the second set to give Lake Orion momentum.
“In the second half of that first set we thought if we can just start playing well now so it can create a little bit of momentum and then in the second set we played great, all of a sudden our ball control was there,” Scavarda said. “Once we could get our ball control going a little bit we could compete with them at the net.”
Mercy won the third set with sophomore setter Julia Bishop blocking Briggs not once, but twice late, then setting up Mruzik for a kill and the 27-25 win and 2-1 lead in sets.
Mercy held an 18-15 lead in the fourth game on Mruzik’s ace, primed to close out the match, but Briggs came through with five straight kills to help Lake Orion come back for a 25-20 win to pull even and force a fifth and deciding set.
Early in the fifth set, Mercy lost its libero Kayla Shields to an injury and veteran coach Loretta Vogel had to make changes on the fly in her absence. And, Briggs just kept swinging with setter Wren Macaulay putting the ball where she wanted it.
“As a setter I go to whoever is getting kills and if she’s (Briggs) hot I’m setting for her,” said Macaulay, who had 53 assists and 12 digs. “If she’s getting kills I’m going to that person. I want to mix it up a little bit, but they weren’t stopping her at that point so I didn’t see any reason not to set her.”
Mruzik had 27 kills, 13 digs and a .263 hitting percentage with Bishop collecting 44 assists.
“I thought (Briggs) had a great game, played amazing,” Mruzik said. “We just didn’t have an answer for her.”
In the Rockford-Northville semifinal, 6-foot senior middle hitter Emmy Webb had 21 kills and a .514 hitting percentage while Lindsay Taylor contributed 20 kills and senior setter Emilee Karelse 52 assists for No. 7 Rockford (47-11-1).
It was Northville’s first Final Four appearance.
“This was the first time that these girls have been here and it’s hard when you step on to this arena,” Northville third-year coach Julie Fisette said. “Rockford has been here before and they know what it’s like. Next year when we step on the court it’s going to be a different story.
“I think we pulled it together. We came back. We had our fire in us. We had really great moments. There were just some long streaks in there where I think we let them get that momentum back.”
Sophomore outside hitter Jenna Boksha had 11 kills and senior setter Gabriella Fisette had 24 assists for No. 8 Northville (47-7-1).
Grand Rapids Christian def. Lake Odessa Lakewood, 25-14, 25-20, 25-14
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep def. Corunna, 25-9, 25-14, 25-17
Final: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Unionville-Sebewaing def. Traverse City St. Francis, 25-15, 26-24, 19-25, 25-21
Bronson def. Monroe St. Mary CC, 23-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-18, 15-4
Final: Saturday, noon
Mendon def. Southfield Christian, 25-18, 25-15, 25-13
Leland def. Carney-Nadeau, 25-21, 25-14, 25-16
Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Lake Orion def. Farmington Hills Mercy, 20-25, 25-18, 25-27, 25-20, 15-13
Rockford def. Northville, 25-13, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21
Final: Saturday, 2 p.m.