Battle Creek — North Branch sent Miss Volleyball award winner Katherine Carlson and defending state champion Pontiac Notre Dame Prep home disappointed Thursday night at Kellogg Arena in a Class B state semifinal.
North Branch scored the match's first four points and kept the pressure on all night behind the powerful hitting of Laura Wilson, Victoria Severance and Olivia Fike to earn a 25-16, 25-21, 18-25, 25-17 victory.
The teams have played each other during the final week of the season three straight years, with North Branch winning two years ago in the quarterfinals and Notre Dame coming away with the win in last year's quarterfinal match.
"They are a very good team and that's what I've said all along," Notre Dame coach Betty Wroubel said. "They outplayed us today, but today isn't going to define our season. We had a great, great season."
Senior outside hitter Laura Wilson had 22 kills and 15 digs for North Branch (60-7-4, which also received 14 kills from Victoria Severance (.519 hitting percentage), 12 from Olivia Fike and 53 assists from Madee Miner.
Carlson, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter, had 26 kills (.306 hitting percentage) and 25 digs for Notre Dame (57-6), which didn't have another player with more than five kills.
"Our whole game plan, when Carlson was in the front row and when Laura was in the front row, I felt if we could be even there and then their (Notre Dame Prep) rotations, 4, 5 and 6, we felt we had a huge advantage with Victoria who had a great game," North Branch coach James Fish said. "We felt we had a huge advantage, and if we could just win points there we'd be fine and that's pretty much what happened."
After North Branch's one-sided win in Game 1, Notre Dame came back behind the outstanding play of Carlson to take a 13-7 advantage before North Branch's comeback.
Again, Fike played a major role, slamming down a spike to give North Branch a 18-17 lead while getting an emotional display from a fist pump by Fish.
After Notre Dame came back to pull even at 21, Wroubel disagreed with the next two calls, as North Branch took a lead it would not give up.
"It happens and it's part of the game," Wroubel said. "The one call I disagreed with, but that happens, and then as our captain was questioning it with the down official, she's running over to get in position and the referee calls for the serve and she wasn't in position.
"Still, you have to overcome that. You can't control the officials, you can only control what's on your side of the net. It seems like we weren't the only ones that didn't have our 'A' games today. I'm not blaming that, I was just fighting for my team. But, it was a big swing and if you win that second game ... who knows. It's hard to overcome, though."
Carlson, who will play at Valparaiso, had 15 kills, a hitting percentage of .286 and 10 digs after the first two games. She had more than 1,000 kills in each of her final two seasons.
Carlson was at her best in the Game 3 win, making sure Notre Dame protected the lead this time. She had a kill, then a pair of aces during a 4-0 run to open up a 23-16 lead.
"She's a phenomenal athlete and she has wonderful court vision," Wroubel said of Carlson. "We just didn't get the ball in a very good spot for her to hit. We were hitting 8-to-10 feet off the net, but that was because North Branch serves aggressively and they kept swinging. We got into an off-speed game and against North Branch, their libero (Mady Ruhlman, 33 digs) is a heck of a ball player and they just convert those. If I was disappointed, it was that we didn't keep attacking aggressively as we should have and what we normally do. The kids played hard though."
Vanessa Reynhout put on a strong performance to help Lake Odessa Lakewood defeat Battle Creek-Harper Creek, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 25-19.
Lakewood won the Class B state championship two years ago, defeating North Branch.
Reynhout, a senior middle blocker, had 32 kills and a .459 hitting percentage for Lakewood (51-8), which also received solid efforts from sophomore setter Gabie Shellenbarger (48 assists) and defensive specialists Katelin Senneker (19 digs) and Karly Morris (19 digs).
Charley Andrews had 24 kills and Olivia Leson 22 for Harper Creek (55-9-2), which also received 49 assists from Edrie Ganey.