Ann Arbor — Freshman phenom Harper Murray spiked the ball with authority to put the exclamation point on an impressive Division 1 state quarterfinal volleyball sweep over Livonia Churchill and punch Ann Arbor Skyline’s ticket to the state finals for the first time in program history on Tuesday.
Murray, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, joined her older sister Kendall Murray — a Miss Volleyball finalist and Michigan commit — and middle hitters Sophie Schrag and Sasha Akuezue to dominate Churchill, 25-15, 25-17, 25-12, in a match that lasted just over an hour.
Skyline, which lost to Northville in a regional final last season, earned the right to play Churchill by winning its first regional title with a sweep of Novi last week.
Skyline (54-8; ranked No. 10) will play Farmington Hills Mercy in a state semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
“It’s definitely really crazy, really doesn’t feel real,” Kendall Murray said. “There’s been a lot of talk this season about states and about us doing really well, so the fact that we’re here now, it’s a breath of fresh air. We’re here, we can play. We play Mercy and they are a really good team, so we’re just going to ball out and hope for the best.
“Just coming from rock bottom with this program, my freshman year we had five coaches and won probably two games and now we’re on of the best teams in the state. It’s really been exciting to see that growth throughout the four years and now I’m playing with my sister. I’m taking this all in and enjoying all of it. It’s exciting.”
Harper Murray and Schrag each had five kills in the opening set with Kendall Murray adding four and Akuezue chipping in with two kills and a block to set the tempo.
Then Harper Murray played outstanding defense in the back row in the second set, keeping the ball alive for her teammates to do some damage with Kendall Murray getting a half-dozen kills.
“Overall, we have outsides, middles, right sides and that makes us such a good team because we don’t know where the ball is going, the other team don’t know where the ball is going and we’re communicating well,” Kendall Murray said.
When asked if this was her best match, Harper Murray replied: “Yes, probably. We just wanted this so bad and we fought for every point. I feel we played really well and finished it. We haven’t lost a set yet during the postseason.”
Harper Murray had high praise for Skyline senior libero McKenna Pfeffer during the second set.
“My libero and I had the mentality of not letting anything drop and just keep pushing for every point,” she said.
Skyline coach Chris Cristian is thrilled his team will get the opportunity to play at Kellogg Arena for a shot at the state championship.
“It’s super exciting, I’ve gone there to watch with my son many years,” Cristian said. “We need to go and play hard, just play our game and see what happens.”
Lake Orion def. Mount Pleasant, 3-0
Lowell def. Mattawan, 3-1
Ann Arbor Skyline def. Livonia Churchill, 3-0
Farmington Hills Mercy def. Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, 3-0
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep def. Warren Regina, 3-0
Lake Odessa Lakewood def. Ida, 3-0
Kingsley def. Freeland, 3-0
Grand Rapids Christian def. Hamilton, 3-0
Saginaw Valley Lutheran def. Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, 3-0
Schoolcraft def. Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, 3-0
Monroe St. Mary C.C. def. Hudson, 3-0
Beaverton def. Traverse City St. Francis, 3-0
Mendon def. Camden-Frontier, 3-1
Southfield Christian def. Ubly, 3-0
Rudyard def. Carney-Nadeau, 3-1
Leland def. Merrill, 3-0