Division 1 volleyball: Briggs keys Lake Orion's first state championship

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Battle Creek — Paige Briggs said she played the best match of her life Friday night to help No. 2 Lake Orion upset top-ranked Farmington Hills Mercy at Kellogg Arena for the right to play in the Division 1 state championship match.

Well, Briggs continued her outstanding play Saturday, coming up with 30 kills and an outstanding .491 hitting average in a 3-1 win (25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 25-16) over No. 7 Rockford to help Lake Orion earn its first state title in program history.

Briggs, who finished fifth in Miss Volleyball voting earlier this week, had six kills and a .750 hitting percentage in the Set 1 win, then had 10 kills to help rally Lake Orion (68-6) back from a 13-9 deficit to go up 2-0 and put the pressure on Rockford.

“I’ve watched a lot of high school volleyball and I haven’t seen too many kids just take over games at this level of a tournament like the way she has yesterday and today against that type of competition,” said Lake Orion coach Tony Scavarda of Briggs, the 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter who will play next year at Western Kentucky. She had 43 kills and a .429 hitting percentage against Mercy with 31 kills coming in the final's three sets.

“I think everybody just saw who should have been Miss Volleyball. I know it’s not who’s the best player this year, it’s a career award and you have to give it up to Maddy Chinn (of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. For four years straight Notre Dame Prep has been at the top of everything in Class B. I think if it was just a senior year award I don’t know how you could argue that it shouldn’t be Paige’s.”

No doubt, Lake Orion’s ability to win the second set played a big role in the outcome, as did Lake Orion’s ability to serve at a high level.

 “My whole thought was Wren (setter Macaulay) likes to spread the ball around and it opens up Paige a lot of times,”Scavarda said. “I specifically told her (Macaulay) though ‘That I don’t care if Paige’s legs fall off tonight. I want to take this (match) in three and she can rest tomorrow and the next day.’ We have to get that second set, that’s a big momentum thing. And, even though they got that third set we knew we were still up 2-1, still a nice little cushion.

“After watching Rockford against Northville (in state semifinal), I was really impressed with Rockford’s passing and I was worried if we were going to be able to get them out of system or not, but these girls served really tough today. They hit the spots that were asked of them and we did get Rockford out of system. We even had quite a few aces (nine) on them.”

Rockford coach Kelly Delacher agreed.

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“Lake Orion is a very good team and a very deserving champion,” Delacher said. “I felt it came down to serving and passing. They served better than we did. They passed better than we did and they were able to stay in system more than we were, and ultimately their big hitter took over for them. She ended up with 30 kills, had a great game.”

And, the soft-spoken Briggs let her play do the talking throughout the weekend.

When asked to comment on the match since she did say she played the best match of her life against Mercy, Briggs replied: “It’s like the icing on the cake. I’m really happy. I feel truly blessed. It’s a good way to end senior year.”

Macaulay, a senior setter who is headed to New Hampshire, feels the same way.

“It feels unreal,” Macaulay said. “It feels so good to end on a winning streak, not with tears this year so it’s real exciting. It still hasn’t hit me yet. We’re a close bunch. We have each other’s backs.”

Macaulay had 50 assists, placing her in a tie for fifth best effort in a state finals match. Libero Ciara Livingway — one of Lake Orion’s 10 seniors — had a match-high four aces and 13 digs and junior outside hitter Sydney Smith, seven kills and 11 digs.

Lindsay Taylor, a 6-2 senior outside hitter, had 20 kills (.204 hitting percentage) and 14 digs with senior setter Emilee Karelse, 36 assists for Rockford (47-12-1).

“We knew it would be a big challenge,” said Scavarda of facing Taylor. “We kind of talked about treating it like Mercy’s big hitter Jess (6-2 Mruzik). We tried to defend her the same way, back row attacking, try to get deep enough so we could at least touch the ball, but she was just hitting such perfect spots, especially from her back row attacks.

“We made an adjustment in the fourth set to double block her. We weren’t really able to stop her, but we did slow her down on a couple attempts. She was great. It was kind of like back and forth with her and Paige, but the great thing about tonight is we had a more balanced attack. We had other hitters step up and getting kills, our middles and Olivia Long (six kills) on the outside.”