Novi – Erin O’Leary has only known success during her high school career, leading Novi to three consecutive state championship match appearances as a standout setter, making sure her team entered her senior year as two-time defending Class A state champs.
O’Leary, who committed to Michigan prior to her sophomore season, has her sights on helping Novi become the first Class A team to win three straight state titles since Portage Northern won four straight from 1992-95.
Novi lost to Romeo in the title match during O’Leary’s freshman year in 2014, then upset Romeo in the title match her sophomore year before topping Rockford in last year’s championship match to finish 53-1, dishing out 33 assists after a 43-assist outing in a semifinal sweep of Fenton.
Rockford is currently ranked No. 1 in the Michigan High School Volleyball Coaches Association poll and the teams could meet again in Battle Creek, but this time in the state semifinals Nov. 16.
“I don’t know many other players that have accomplished what she has in her time in high school,” said Novi coach Jennifer Cottrill of O’Leary, who had 4,237 career assists entering her senior year, just needing to match her junior year total of 1,461 to become the state’s all-time leader. “She’s got a tremendous skill set and volleyball IQ, but that speaks to all of the intangibles that she also possesses, the leadership and competitiveness and just work ethic and respect she has from her teammates and the community. She just knows what it takes to be successful.”
O’Leary has a 3.98 grade-point average and plans to graduate in December so she can begin college at Michigan in January.
“Time has definitely flown by and I’m sad that this is my last year,” said O’Leary, who has helped Novi to a 180-12 record, 22-2 this season. “Being a part of this program has meant so much to me.
“I’ve learned a lot from some great leaders we’ve had here. This year my goal is to be a good leader for this team. I just want everyone to give it their all, buy in 100 percent and really be a part of this team.
“Being a part of this program, especially with Jen and Ricky (Cottrill) as our coaches, they expect a lot of us in terms of responsibility. I think I’ve definitely become a better person all-around since being a part of this program.”
O’Leary had a busy summer in 2016, playing for the U.S. Under-18 National Team in Puerto Rico while also competing for the Legacy Club program.
While O’Leary played again for Legacy this summer, competing in Orlando and Minneapolis, and also participating at the University of Michigan camp, she was also thrilled to have a little time off for her family vacation at Lake Michigan in South Haven, a trip she’s missed in past years.
“I was still busy, had a bunch of volleyball stuff,” she said. “But I had some time off, which was nice, had a chance to go with my family on a vacation and it was super fun.”
2. Alexa Rousseau, So., S, Bloomfield Hills
Rousseau is one of the premier players in the nation with tremendous size at 6-2 and skills at the setter position. She had multiple Division 1 offers before her freshman year and is being highly recruited by multiple national powers, getting offers from Stanford and Michigan, with coaches from Florida expected to come into town to watch her play the last week of September.
“I have coached since 1977, 11 years at Oakland University, and I’ve never seen anybody with her skill set,” coach Bob Hurdle said. “She’s a 6-2 left-handed setter and they just don’t come around like that. Normally, you may get a setter approaching 6-foot that has the type of athletic ability she has, but she can block, hit and play balls well above the net.”
3. Abbey Malinowski, Sr., OH, Clarkston
Malinowski is a dominant hitter at 6-1 with the ability to hit with finesse to keep defenses off-balance. She will play at Michigan.
“Abbey is lethal from everywhere on the court,” coach Kelly Pinner said. “She is a very smart shotmaker and has the ability to frustrate defenses. She can also hit for power, but has perfected many off-speed shots that pick apart opponents. She is an all-around player with an effective serve and her length makes her tough on defenses as well.”
4. Jess Mruzik, So., OH, Farmington Hills Mercy
Mruzik, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, committed to Michigan prior to her sophomore season.
“She’s a sophomore playing like she’s already in the Big Ten,” coach Andrew Thompson said. “She passes for us, she hits for us, she blocks for us. I can’t even say enough since it’s hard to put into words how special of a player she is.”
5. Lauren Wenzel, Sr., MB, Birmingham Marian
Wenzel is a dominant weapon at 6-2 for Marian, leading the program to a Class A state quarterfinal appearance last season. She will play next year at Notre Dame.
“She’s a potential Miss Volleyball candidate,” said coach Lauren Duquette. “She’s dynamic. She’s quick. She’s a very strong blocker.”
6. Abryanna Cannon, Sr., OH, Novi
Cannon played a major role in helping Novi win the Class A state championship last year, contributing 20 kills in the title match win over Rockford. She will play next year at Northwestern.
“She’s a confident and very dominant high-level attacker who has a wicked fast and powerful arm swing,” said coach Jennifer Cottrill of the 6-1 Cannon. “She’s also very fluid in the back row and can terminate from anywhere on the court.”
7. Francesca McBride, So., OH, Troy
McBride is a 6-2 right-side hitter who is a great athlete with tremendous leaping ability. She has already committed to Florida.
“She’s an exceptional blocker who touches 10 feet,” coach Tom Vigilant said. “She’s an athletic kid who works hard and is driven to be the best player she can be.”
8. Mandy Chinn, Jr., OH, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Chinn has tremendous size at 6-3 and skills to match with the ability to dominate. She had 682 kills her sophomore year and is on pace to top that this season. She matches her talent in the classroom, holding a 4.0 grade-point average. She is a Purdue commit.
“She’s a dominant hitter and blocker, but has really worked on the other parts of her game such as defense and placement shots to make her one of the best around,” coach Betty Wroubel said.
9. Paige Briggs, Jr., OH, Lake Orion
Briggs is a tremendous athlete and hits with power. She has already committed to Western Kentucky.
“She can touch 10 feet so she can get up high and she hits a heavy ball,” coach Tony Scavarda said. “She plays all the way around for us, plays all six rotations and is a good passer as well.”
10. (tie) Kendall Murray, So., MH, Ann Arbor Skyline
Murray has developed into a strong all-around player, being able to dominate at the net with her size (6-1) and skills. She is a Michigan commit.
“Kendall has been working a lot on her all-around play, becoming a six-rotation player where she’s not only a force on the frontline, but also able to be a great passer, digger and defender, so she brings a lot to the game,” said coach Chris Cristian.
10. (tie) Madison Dowd, Jr., S, Birmingham Marian
Dowd had a strong sophomore season, helping Marian reach the Class A state quarterfinals last season. She is a Georgetown commit.
“She’s really disciplined, athletic and intelligent and a good leader,” coach Lauren Duquette said. “She makes really smart setting choices and is one of the best defensive setters I’ve coached. She runs the court well and leads by example.”
OTHERS TO WATCH
Celia Cullen, So., setter, Brighton (MSU)
Chandler Duff, Sr., MH, Grosse Pointe North (Oregon)
Kathryn Ellison, Sr., OH, Novi (Kent State)
Hannah Grant, Jr., libero, Northville (MSU)
Illyria Kalaj, Sr., libero, Lake Orion (WMU)
Maria Mallon, Sr., OH, New Baltimore Anchor Bay (Cincinnati)
Natalie Risi, Jr., OH, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Gabi Shilling, Sr., MH, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (Rhode Island)
Solei Thomas, Sr., OH, Detroit Renaissance (Clemson)