Novi setter Erin O’Leary was named Miss Volleyball Monday afternoon in a ceremony held at the high school.
The state’s top honor comes to no surprise since O’Leary made a name for herself as a freshman when she led Novi to the Class A state championship match, losing to Romeo before coming back her sophomore season to help Novi defeat Romeo to earn the state title. Novi repeated as state champs last year.
O’Leary committed to Michigan as a sophomore and has been an outstanding student-athlete with a 3.98 grade-point-average. She has 1,451 assists this season, giving her a state career record 5,688, topping the former mark held by Alexa Ratkowski of Bronson (5,610) from 2012-15.
O’Leary plans to graduate in December, then begin college in January.
Still, O’Leary has unfinished business with Novi playing Temperance Bedford in a state quarterfinal match at Ann Arbor Huron on Tuesday, with the winner moving on to Battle Creek to compete in the state finals Thursday-Saturday.
"It is such an amazing feeling," O'Leary said. "Today has given me the opportunity to reflect on how many people have supported me along the way, and has also given me the incredible opportunity to thank them. Without my coaches, family, friends and teammates I would be nowhere.
"Miss Volleyball is an individual award, but I think it speaks more to the people surrounding me who are truly the highest quality people. My current teammates, they make me look so good and make my job easy."
Novi coach Jennifer Cottrill had high praise for O’Leary. Novi has won 212 of its 225 matches during O’Leary’s career and will be trying to be the first Class A team to win three straight state championships since Portage Northern won four straight from 1992-95.
“It’s difficult to describe her value to a team in words, she’s just everything you could ever dream of as a coach,” said Cottrill. “She’s a hard worker. She’s a great teammate. She’s humble. She understands the game of volleyball and what it means to be a successful team.
“She’s obviously a tremendous setter. She’s able to always keep our attackers in a position where they can score, and even if we’re passing poorly she still delivers a ball that we can terminate. She’s also third on our team in kills, so she’s offensive in the front row; she leads our team in aces, just the complete package.”
O’Leary also has 307 digs, 207 kills and 93 aces. Now, she will try to help Novi avenge one of its three losses when it faces Bedford.
“I believe the last time we lost a set was Sept. 16 when we lost to DeWitt,” Cottrill said. “We’re excited about where we are right now, battled a lot of injuries at the beginning of the year and had a bunch of different lineups and different players in, but we’ve been consistent with the lineup with the last month or so and things seem to be working well right now. We’re focused, prepared and ready to go.
“We played Bedford back on Labor Day at their place and we didn’t have three starters, but they beat us pretty handily without those three starters. We’re not in this position very often so it’s kind of nice to be on the other end, having that revenge/redemption role. It’s nice to have a little extra motivation.”
Novi has outside hitters Abryanna Cannon (Northwestern) and Kathryn Ellison (Kent State) back in the lineup after they missed the first meeting against Bedford.
While Novi will be the team to beat in Class A, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep will be the favorite in Class B.
Notre Dame Prep — 61-2-2 and ranked No. 1 — pushed its consecutive win streak to 50 with a regional final sweep (25-15, 25-11, 25-12) over No. 2 North Branch, setting up a state quarterfinal match with Corunna on Tuesday night at Imlay City.
Notre Dame Prep is loaded with Division 1 talent, including junior outside hitters Madeline Chinn, a Purdue commit, and Natalie Risi, a Ball State commit.
MISS VOLLEYBALL VOTING
Erin O’Leary, Novi – 212 votes
Maria Mallon, New Baltimore Anchor Bay – 109
Abbey Malinowski, Clarkston – 100
Abryanna Cannon, Novi – 88
Sophie Riemersma, Zeeland East – 74
Madison Gates, Grand Rapids Christian - 57
Kiana Mayer, Bronson – 56
Hailey Delacher, Rockford – 55
Lauryn Gibbs, Mt. Morris – 47
Gaby Harper, Caledonia – 38
Madison Whitfield, Saline – 28
MISS VOLLEYBALL WINNERS
2017 – Erin O’Leary, Novi (Michigan)
2016 – Meredith Norris, Corunna (Michigan State)
2015 – Gia Milana, Romeo (Maryland)
2014 – Katherine Carlson, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (Valparaiso)
2013 – Carly Snyder, Macomb Dakota (Florida)
2012 – Amanda McKinzie, Battle Creek St. Philip (Virginia Tech)
2011 – Maddy Doyle, Farmington Hills Mercy (George Washington)
2010 – Jordan Fish, North Branch (Central Connecticut)
2009 – Alexandra Cocklin, Birmingham Marian (Akron)
2008 – Olivia Kohler, North Branch (Grand Valley)
2007 – Kyndra Abron, Livonia Churchill (Michigan State)
2007 – Lauren Jones, East Kentwood (Kent State)
2006 – Alisha Glass, Leland (Penn State)
2005 – Stephanie Booms, Marysville (Hillsdale)
2004 – Angie McGinnis, Fraser (Florida)
2003 – Lindsey Taatjes, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (Minnesota)