Milana's 31 kills lead Romeo
Chants of "She's your whole team," came from the Farmington Hills Mercy student section every time Romeo's 6-foot-2 junior outside hitter Gia Milana slammed the ball to the floor during the Class A quarterfinal volleyball match Tuesday night at Utica Ford High School.
Sure, Milana showed why she will be a frontrunner for Miss Volleyball next year, but she also had a tremendous supporting cast in a 25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 25-21 victory over Mercy to avenge a pair of earlier season losses to the Marlins.
Milana finished with 31 kills to send Romeo (43-8-1) to Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek for the State Finals, where the Bulldogs will face traditional power Temperance Bedford on Friday night.
Milana helped Romeo win its first regional title since 1998 last season, defeating 2012 state champion Macomb Dakota and Miss Volleyball award winner Carli Snyder before falling to Birmingham Marian in the quarterfinals.
This time, Milana made sure Romeo would get off to a good start, collecting nine kills in the Game 1 win.
Her teammates also played key roles with the strong setting of Lauren Korth and hard hitting from sophomore Jodie Kelly.
"Yes, we got a ton of attacks from Gia, but Jodie really came through for us," Romeo Coach Stacy Williams said. "They were crucial points for us, just when we needed them she came through.
"Mercy is relentless out on the court and their defense is really strong. We knew we had to match up with them defensively and go ahead and swing like we do."
Mercy made it much tougher on Milana in Game 2. She would still get eight kills, but many of her other attempts would get blocked, dug out or fall off the mark.
Romeo closed out the Game 2 win with a kill by Kelly and a block by junior Erica Labaere.
Mercy cut the deficit to 2-1 in games with strong play by Michigan commit Jenna Lerg, freshman outside hitter Lauren Hunter and hitters Kayla Fisher and Bella McDonald.
Mercy carried the momentum into Game 4, taking a 14-7 lead before Kelly took over, getting five kills to pull Romeo within 16-12.
Then senior Lauren Korth joined the fun with consecutive kills to pull Romeo even at 18.
Milana had consecutive kills to give Romeo its first lead at 20-19, followed by Kelly's kill down the line for a 23-21 lead and another kill by Milana to set up the wild celebration.
"My teammates picked me up and we all played well and contributed," Milana said. "In practice (Monday) she (Kelly) was bombing it and I said 'girls, just play like you did in practice and we'll be set' and she did.
"This is just an amazing feel. We're going to Battle Creek and I'm so excited."