Erin O’Leary will try to become the first Miss Volleyball winner to help her team win the Class A state championship since Alexandra Cocklin of Birmingham Marian in 2009.
And O’Leary will try to help Novi become the first Class A team to win three straight state titles since Portage Northern won four straight from 1992-95.
“It’s been pretty crazy, absolutely incredible, more than I could have ever imagined,” said O’Leary, who led Novi to the state-championship match her freshman year, losing to Romeo, before Novi made the return trip to Battle Creek in 2015 to win the state championship over Miss Volleyball winner Gia Milana and Romeo, then come back and take home the crown with a win over Rockford last year.
“I’m so grateful to have been on amazing teams every year. We love Battle Creek. It’s so fun and to be able to bring all the younger kids and show them how much fun it is will be really exciting.”
This is O’Leary’s final journey before graduating early in December before starting her college career at Michigan.
Novi (55-3) will play DeWitt in a 6:30 semifinal at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek tonight. DeWitt was the last team to beat Novi back on Sept. 16. Novi hasn’t lost a set since that match. Catholic League rivals Farmington Hills Mercy and Birmingham Marian will play in the other semifinal at 4:30, with the winners playing for the championship Saturday at 2.
Kent State-bound outside hitter Kathryn Ellison is a three-year varsity player at Novi. She is enjoying her final season as well, especially Monday afternoon’s Miss Volleyball ceremony.
“That was probably one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed,” said Ellison who had 13 kills, 19 digs and a .364 hitting percentage Tuesday night in a sweep (25-10, 25-18, 25-17) of Temperance Bedford in a state quarterfinal. “We didn’t know until we walked in the gym and saw all of our coaches. There’s nobody that deserves it more. She’s such a hard worker and she’s so humble. She’s been one of my best friends since the sixth grade. I’m so proud of her and so proud of Abryanna Cannon (6-foot-2 outside hitter, Northwestern) for getting fourth (in Miss Volleyball voting). It’s an amazing accomplishment for both of them and our program.”
Novi coach Jen Cottrill made sure her players know how special this run is for them.
“I was letting them know that before these last four years, and I’ve coached 12 years, that I had never made it to a quarterfinal before so we had to make sure they understand that this is awesome and special and amazing and not lose sight of reality because they don’t know anything different than going to Battle Creek. But, it’s also definitely a big relief to go back there. It’s such a fun trip and a fun place to go and be at so we’re excited.”
Mercy has won both meetings against Marian, winning in five sets at Marian before winning in four in the Catholic League championship match.
“It’s definitely nice to be back since it’s been seven years and we have been close a few times since,” Mercy co-coach Andrew Thompson said. “Jess Mruzik is leading us offensively. She’s been amazing. Julia Bishop, our freshman setter, is really playing well. She is making our hitters look good, and Lauren Hunter has been our senior rock.”
Mruzik, a 6-1 sophomore outside hitter and Michigan commit, will be going up against Marian 6-2 senior middle blocker Lauren Wenzel (Notre Dame).
The Catholic League will be well represented in Battle Creek with Livonia Ladywood playing in a Class B semifinal Friday against Lake Odessa Lakewood, and No. 1 Pontiac Notre Dame — a former long-time member of the Catholic League — taking its 51-match winning streak into its semifinal against Fruitport.
Notre Dame Prep won the championship in 2013 and made its last trip to Battle Creek in 2014, losing to eventual champion North Branch in the emis.
Notre Dame Prep swept No. 2 North Branch in last Thursday’s regional championship match.
Plymouth Christian is the defending state champion and No. 1 ranked team in Class D. It meets Rogers City today.
Bronson is the two-time defending state champion in Class C, also coming in with a No. 1 ranking in its semifinal match with Calumet on Friday.
At Kellogg Arena,
Farmington Hills Mercy vs. Birmingham Marian, 4:30 Thursday
DeWitt vs. Novi, 6:30 Thursday
Final: 2 p.m. Saturday
Lake Odessa Lakewood vs. Livonia Ladywood, 4:30 Friday
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
vs. Fruitport, 6:30 Friday
Final: 4 p.m. Saturday
Wixom St. Catherine vs. Lainsburg, Noon Friday
Bronson vs. Calumet, 2:30 Friday
Final: Noon Saturday
Munising vs. Fowler, noon Thursday
Plymouth Christian vs.
Rogers City, 2:30 Thursday
Final: 10 a.m. Saturday