Battle Creek — Miss Volleyball award winner Erin O’Leary and Novi put on a dominating performance in the Class A state semifinals Thursday night at Kellogg Arena, sweeping DeWitt 25-13, 25-11, 25-17.
Yes, Novi (56-3) came into the match with a little extra motivation if the two-time defending state champions really needed any.
After all, DeWitt (43-5) was the last team to defeat Novi, back on Sept. 16.
And, Novi responded to that loss by not losing another set the rest of the season … and it wasn’t close to giving up a set against DeWitt.
“I think that’s a unique situation for us since they were the last loss that we had, so there’s definitely some extra motivation, but I don’t really think you need to have extra motivation in the state semifinals,” said O’Leary, who had 36 assists.
“Our serve and pass was phenomenal. We served aggressively and we got them out of system. We knew that their middles are definitely a threat, they are very talented players and so if we could serve tough and get them out of system we could defend if we knew where the ball was going. And, of course, our hitters always do a great job of terminating.”
Northwestern-bound outside hitter Abryanna Cannon was playing at the top of her game, getting 14 assists with a .542 hitting percentage in the opening two sets. And she only got better, finishing with 23 kills and a .553 hitting percentage.
“That was definitely a clutch performance,” O’Leary said of Cannon, who was fourth in Miss Volleyball voting. “She’s absolutely phenomenal. It’s so much fun playing with her.”
Novi (56-3) will play Birmingham Marian (44-12-1) in the Class A final Saturday at 2.
“We played really well and a lot of it comes down to our serve and pass and when our serve and pass is there it usually works out well for us in our favor,” Cannon said. “Erin’s a phenomenal setter so all of those kills and hitting percentage all comes back to my teammates.”
In the other semifinal, Marian came back from a one-set deficit to defeat Farmington Hills Mercy 13-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-21 to avenge two earlier losses, including one in the Catholic League championship match.
Mercy (49-8-1) looked like it was well on its way to sweeping the series with Marian by dominating the opening set behind the hitting of 6-1 sophomore outside hitter Jess Mruzik, the blocking of freshman middle hitter Charli Atiemo and the serving of Grace Kane, who had a couple of aces during an 8-0 run to open a 20-9 cushion.
Then, Marian battled back from a 10-7 deficit to take the second set and momentum away from Mercy, something Mercy could never seem to get back.
“I’m on Cloud Nine, but I’m really impressed by the way that we started chipping away after sort of an epic failure in the first set, and completely changed our body language and our mindset which is something that we’ve worked on all year so that we could have the chance to get to this point,” said Marian first-year coach Lauren Duquette, who played for Mercy coach Loretta Vogel while growing up as a 10-year-old on the VIP Club team in Macomb County.
“It was up to them to make the decision to do it and they did. We started serving a lot of more aggressive, executing our zones the way we wanted to, our middles started moving and we made better setting choices.”
Mruzik, a Michigan commit, had 26 kills and a .306 hitting percentage for Mercy, along with 13 digs. Freshman Julia Bishop had 46 assists.
Maggie DePorre (.310) and Christine Audette each had 15 kills for Marian and Notre Dame-bound Lauren Wenzel had 13 kills and a .300 hitting percentage. Junior setter Maddie Dowd, a Georgetown commit, had 52 assists while Mallory Lynch had 19 digs and Claire Winter, 16 digs.
“We were like, ‘We’re not losing to them a third time, especially in front of all these people,’ so I think what really helped us is we all shared the common goal and had the same feeling of the two losses and we all took them really hard and it motivated us more,” Wenzel said.
Defending state champion Plymouth Christian moved on to the championship match with a 26-24, 25-15, 22-25, 25-21 victory over Rogers City.
Plymouth Christian, which will play Fowler (38-11-5) in Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship match, came back from deficits of 15-10, 20-17 and 24-23 to pull out the first set when Gabriella Kellogg had a pair of kills and Robin Albert finished the set with one of her own.
Plymouth Christian (44-8-3) hit .275 as a team compared to .111 for Rogers City (38-9-3).
Grace Kellogg a 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter, had a team-high 17 kills for Plymouth Christian with 5-9 sophomore Gabriella Kellogg accounting for 16 kills, 20 digs and a team-high .359 hitting percentage. Senior Abigail Pray had 44 assists.
Fowler swept Munising (26-7-4) in just over an hour, 25-21, 25-18, 25-11.
Sindey Horak had 12 kills and a .357 hitting percentage for Fowler which received 28 assists from Kennedy Koenigsknecht.
State volleyball semifinals
At Kellogg Arena, Battle Creek
Birmingham Marian def. Farmington Hills Mercy, 13-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-21
Novi def DeWitt, 25-13, 25-11, 25-17
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
Fowler def. Munising, 25-21, 25-18, 25-11
Plymouth Christian def. Rogers City, 26-24, 25-15, 22-25, 25-21
Final: 10 a.m. Saturday