Battle Creek — Abby McKinzie slammed the ball to the floor to close out Battle Creek St. Philip's 25-18, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17 win over No. 1 Leland in the Class D state championship match Saturday morning at Kellogg Arena to put the Tigers in the history books.
It was St. Philip's state record ninth consecutive state championship, one more than Marysville's run of eight straight titles in Class B from 1997-2004.
"Wow, nine straight, more than Marysville, that's pretty amazing," said St. Philip coach Vicky Groat who matched the record number of 10 state titles held by Jack Magelssen of Portage Northern in the '80s and '90s and one more than her mother, Sheila Guerra, had at St. Philip before her.
St. Philip (54-12-4) dominated the first two games before Leland prevented a sweep. Leland (43-13-4) led 15-14 in Game 4, then St. Philip finished in impressive fashion with McKinzie's hitting, the blocking of Adrian Hibbard and defensive effort of libero Kameron Haley.
"This was a huge accomplishment, a giant weight off of our shoulders," said McKinzie whose older sister Amanda was Miss Volleyball two years ago at St. Philip and now playing at Virginia Tech. "All of the pressure is off and it's amazing, she said.
"We never had that star hitter like we have in the past, but we were able to overcome it because we had so many great hitters and the defense was so strong and that was important. I'm so happy to be able to get this record for her (Groat). She's a great coach."
McKinzie, a 5-foot-8 junior outside hitter had 13 kills and 14 digs; 5-7 senior outside hitter Megan Parker had 12 kills and 15 digs, Hibbard, a 5-11 senior middle hitter, had four kills and three blocks; senior setter Emily Schaub, 32 assists and Haley, 21 digs.
Groat knew how much pressure St. Philip's players were having, telling them during a Game 4 timeout when trailing, "I told them, 'Hey, I don't care if we win or lose this game. I love you guys and you guys are the best and I'm proud of you.' I think they had a little pressure on them after losing Game 3 and I think it kind of relaxed them a little. They are a great group of girls and I'm very proud of what's they've done this year. Today we were down a lot and they just kept battling back. It's amazing … an awesome feeling.
St. Philip had to battle back from the opening game against a Leland program which last defeated the Tigers in the state title match, way back in 2006 when Miss Volleyball winner Alisha Glass played for her mother, Leland coach Laurie Glass. Alisha went on to lead Penn State to three straight consecutive national titles and is now the U.S. national team setter.
St. Philip came back from a 6-2 deficit in the opening game behind the hitting of McKinzie, the blocking of Hibbard and Schaub and serving of Parker who had four aces in the match to share team-high honors with McKinzie.
In the Game 4 comeback, Hibbard got a block during a 5-0 run to open up a 19-15 lead, then another for a 22-16 cushion.
"I've never been considered the strongest hitter on the team, but whenever I get out there my big goal is to just block and that's what I went out and tried to do," pointed out Hibbard.
Glass was proud her team reached the title match for the first time since 2006.
"I'm disappointed for the girls, but proud of the fact we were able to get back for the first time since 2006," Glass said. "I'm excited for them to get the experience of being down here. Sure, we would like the hardware to say something different than it currently says, but we'll take that over not being here at all."
And, of St. Philip's Game 4 run to close out the match?
"I thought they started serving really well at that point in time and we made a couple of passing errors and got a little tight," pointed out Glass. "I'd much rather lose to her (Groat) than lose to anybody else … if I have to lose.
Maddie Trumbull had 16 kills and 20 digs for Leland with Jessica Fleis contributing 37 assists.