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Top-ranked Novi sets up title rematch with Romeo

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Battle Creek — Top-ranked Novi has been on a mission ever since losing the Class A state championship match to Romeo at Kellogg Arena a year ago.

Novi showed it was all business Thursday night, sweeping Grand Rapids Christian, 25-18, 25-18, 25-18, to get that much anticipated rematch with Romeo at 2 p.m. Saturday with the state title again on the line.

Novi, which hasn’t lost a game in the playoffs, trailed 8-5 in Game 3 against Grand Rapids Christian only to make adjustments and pull out the win.

“We’re all super excited,” said sophomore setter Erin O’Leary, who already has committed to Michigan. “We’re very hungry and ready to go out there and give it our all. We’ve done a good job of starting strong, getting out there early, trying to jump out on our opponent. We think first to five points, always doing a good job executing early, so we’re going to keep that up.”

O’Leary had 26 assists and 10 digs. She had a lot of weapons to work with, led by 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter and Miss Volleyball runner-up Victoria Iacobelli (eight kills) and her twin sister, Paulina (16 digs, three kills). Junior right side hitter Ally Cummings had 12 kills.

“We’ve got a game plan and our girls are doing a good job of going out and executing it and staying calm,” Novi coach Jennifer Cottrill said. “We’ve had a lot of pressure on us all year and we’ve learned how to deal with that and I think that’s really benefiting us right now.

“(O’Leary) is the calm and for just a sophomore it’s pretty tremendous to watch her, but it’s nice to see her making adjustments and talking to her attackers so if she sets the ball and they don’t get a good swing, she wants to know what she can do better. She’s just an awesome teammate.”

Is Cottrill surprised with Novi’s dominance?

“Yes,” she said. “Obviously at some point you think you’re going to have a little struggle, but I think we’ve just done a really good job of managing the runs that have been scored on us. We haven’t let anyone get the momentum.”

Grand Rapids Christian played with its star player, 5-11 senior outside hitter Dylynn Otte — who finished third in the Miss Volleyball voting — hampered by an injury (fractured foot). She played and had a team-high 12 kills.

“I think Novi is amazing,” Grand Rapids Christian coach Tiffannie Gates said. “It’s an advantage having been here last year and knowing the environment.”

The Novi players remember last year’s title match, Romeo coming out on top, 25-23, 25-22, 14-25, 25-27, 15-9. Romeo is used to five-set matches this season as well, pushed to the limit in the regional semifinal and regional final, then in the state semifinal against Livonia Churchill.

We haven’t seen them all season, even in a tournament, so we get to see them (Saturday) and definitely revenge is the word to describe what we want,” Paulina Iacobelli said of facing Romeo. “Hungry is the way we’re going to come out for the game.”

VOLLEYBALL SEMIFINALS

THURSDAY

Class A

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

Class D

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

FRIDAY

Class B

Goodrich vs. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, 5:30 p.m.

North Branch vs. Battle Creek Harper Creek, 7:15 p.m.

Class C

Bronson vs. Traverse City St. Francis, 2 p.m.

Brown City vs. Monroe St. Mary CC, 3:45 p.m.

SATURDAY'S FINALS

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.