Battle Creek — Top-ranked Plymouth Christian had nine-time defending Class D state champion Battle Creek St. Philip on the ropes Thursday afternoon in a semifinal volleyball match, only to let it out of a jam.
And, No. 2 St. Philip (46-16-2) took advantage of the opportunity, coming back from a one-game deficit and battling back from a 23-21 deficit in Game 2 to earn a 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 28-26 win to move on to Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship match against Leland, a winner over Crystal Falls Forest Park, at Kellogg Arena.
It will be St. Philip’s 15th consecutive Class D title game appearance, defeating Leland in last year’s title match and falling to Leland in the 2006 title match.
Vicky Groat will be attempting to make history, searching for her 11th state championship as head coach of St. Philip. She is currently tied at 10 with Jack Magelssen, who guided Portage Northern in the 1980s and ‘90s.
“I’m so thrilled,” Groat said. “We have another day of practice and we’re going to be playing for a state championship. It’s like my first time.
“This is how we play,” she said. “We’re going to battle, not get down and frustrated with ourselves if they get a run because we know we’re capable of making a run ourselves. I think in Game 1 we were tipping a lot of balls and Game 2, little tips too. We’re a better team when we attack and Anna (Lehouiller) really came up big in the middle, Abby (McKinzie) on the outside and Morgan (Luoma). When we start swinging we can play.”
McKinzie, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter, had 25 kills; Luoma, a 5-7 senior outside hitter, 14 kills and 27 digs; and Lehouiller, 6-0 senior middle hitter, 10 kills. Junior libero Kameron Haley was outstanding defensively all match, finishing with 33 digs. Junior setter Taylor Pessetti had 48 assists.
Pymouth Christian, holding a 23-21 advantage in Game 2, had a bad serve, followed by a kill which missed the mark to pull St. Philip even. St. Philip then closed out the game with a kill by Luoma and a block by Lehouiller to win the game. It was the first game Plymouth Christian (35-6-1) lost in the postseason.
St. Philip went on to dominate Game 3 and grind out Game 4 with tips by McKinzie and Lehouiller to close out the match.
“We played hard and fought a good fight,” said Plymouth Christian 5-8 junior outside hitter Olivia Mady, who had 23 kills and 11 digs. “They are a good team and they hit their spots, hit it to the corners we weren’t covering at the time.”
Still, the failure to close out Game 2 was the difference.
“We had a couple of miscues, then the energy dropped and they (St. Philip) pushed harder,” Plymouth Christian first-year coach D.J. Kellogg said. “Our energy was down (after Game 2) and we couldn’t seem to find the rhythm that we kind of kept all season and they did a good job of serving and getting us out of rhythm. When we were pushed out of system, it’s hard to be aggressive and they were swinging away and it was hard to defend.”
Romeo d. Livonia Churchill, 23-25, 25-13, 20-25, 25-16, 15-10
Novi d. Grand Rapids Christian, 25-18, 25-18, 25-18
Battle Creek St. Philip d. Plymouth Christian, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 28-26
Leland d. Crystal Falls Forest Park, 23-25, 27-25, 25-18, 28-26
Goodrich vs. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, 5:30 p.m.
North Branch vs. Battle Creek Harper Creek, 7:15 p.m.
Bronson vs. Traverse City St. Francis, 2 p.m.
Brown City vs. Monroe St. Mary CC, 3:45 p.m.
Class A: Romeo (48-7-1) vs. Novi (54-2), 2 p.m.
Class B: 4 p.m.
Class C: Noon
Class D: Battle Creek St. Philip (46-16-2) vs Leland (48-7-4), 10 a.m.