Battle Creek — No. 2 Mendon dominated top-ranked Leland, earning a sweep (25-16, 25-21, 25-14) in the Division 4 championship match at Kellogg Arena on Saturday morning to hoist the ultimate trophy for the first time since 2001.
It would be safe to say Mendon (49-6-3) saved its best for the big stage. After hitting at a .333 clip with eight aces in a semifinal sweep over No. 4 Southfield Christian Thursday afternoon, it hit a sizzling .392 with 11 aces against Leland, guided by legendary head coach Laurie Glass, who is on pace to get win No. 1,000 next season.
“It’s an absolutely amazing feeling,” said first-year Mendon head coach Heather Bowers. “These are amazing girls and they deserve it and they’ve earned it. This team has always clicked really well. They have really good chemistry so they just went out there and played their game.
“We work in practice on serves quite a bit and one of our game strategies is to get that team out of system right away no matter who it is and it has worked for us the entire tournament.”
Mendon swept through the tournament in all but one match, losing the first set in the regional final against Battle Creek St. Philip. Leland held a three-point lead in the second set before Mendon rallied for the 25-21 win.
Again it was 5-foot-9 sophomore outside hitter Anna Smith leading the way. Smith, who had 20 kills and a .390 hitting average in the semifinals, had 18 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the final and would have been the MVP if the tournament named one.
“That’s funny, back in the days (2004-07) when we played against (Battle Creek) St. Philip and Allyson Doyle, I feel the same way about this kid," Glass said of Smith. "She jumps really well and when she’s up there she hangs long enough to see what she wants to see and then she has a whip of an arm.
"We had 33 digs. Ella (senior setter Siddall) was digging her (Smith), but we couldn’t get anything out of it. We didn’t always transfer that into a point scoring opportunity for ourselves.”
Senior outside hitter Hayley Kramer was also outstanding for Mendon with 11 kills, a .500 hitting average and five aces, as was senior setter Aubrey Crotser, who had 22 assists and Amaijha Bailey with 12 digs.
“I think I did pretty good,” Kramer said. “I feel like I was serving a lot more than I was hitting, but that’s my job on the team.”
Mendon was sent to the sidelines in the quarterfinals in past years, but it got past that hurdle to show what it could do in an electric atmosphere. After getting swept by Division 3 No. 2 Bronson in mid-season, the players vowed to get better, knowing they would face similar competition down the stretch.
“It’s more of a relief than anything because we worked every year to get this far," Kramer said.
Allie Martin had 13 kills and Ella Siddall 30 assists for Leland (47-11-1).