Battle Creek — Mikayla Haut made sure No. 2 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central would be playing for the Division 3 state championship. She led her team to a dominating 25-20, 25-17, 25-7 state semifinal victory over No. 7 Beaverton on Friday at Kellogg Arena.
After being pushed in the opening set, Haut had 11 kills in the second set and finished with a match-high 24 kills and an impressive .455 hitting percentage for MSMCC (49-2).
MSMCC’s reward is a state title showdown Saturday at noon with No. 1 Schoolcraft and Miss Volleyball runnerup Andelyn Simkins. The championship bout will be the first meeting between the teams this season.
MSMCC’s last state title came in 2014 with a championship match victory over Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft’s lone state title was in 2008.
Haut, a 5-foot-11 junior outside hitter, feels it was an advantage for her team to have played at Kellogg Arena last year despite losing a semifinal match to Bronson.
“I think last year we didn’t know the atmosphere we were going to be in, the lights, the noise and all the fans,” said Haut. “This year, with the majority of us being here last year and experiencing that, it was a big advantage for us. We knew how loud it was going to be, the timeouts and things that usually don’t happen during the regular season but happens here, and I think it helped us a lot to be more comfortable.”
MSMCC coach Karen O’Brien agreed.
“Absolutely, last year when we were here we played a great first three sets and then I think the pressure got to us. So I think just being able to be here last year definitely helped the whole program; the nerves weren’t as bad,” O’Brien said. “You’re going to be nervous no matter what – I’m nervous as a coach and I’ve been coaching 36 years — but I definitely think just being in this atmosphere last year helped tremendously.
“We talked after the first set that it was a B-minus game for us and we really needed to improve, and I thought the second set we got better, and the third set was more of our A game.”
O’Brien thinks MSMCC’s schedule and its multiple weapons will be an advantage with the state championship on the line. In addition to Haut’s 24 kills, 5-10 junior outside hitter Abbie Costlow (nine kills, .333) and 5-10 junior Kylie Barron (five kills, .364) had strong showings.
“We play a schedule that I think for a Division 3 school is one of the toughest schedules and that schedule prepares us for this weekend,” O’Brien said. “We get to see a variety of hitters whether it’s (Ann Arbor) Skyline or (Temperance) Bedford and that prepares us for this.
“I think with Simkins, she’s going to get her blocks; other than that they are going to have to earn points on us. We’re going to do our best to defend her, but she’s a heck of a player. I think we have from start to finish more hitters and we can bring a little variety with our offense. Their two middles (6-0 junior Maggie Morris, 6-1 junior Anna Schuppel) have improved tremendously from the beginning of the year. To me, it’s going to be about who is going to play defense.”
Schoolcraft (48-6-1) swept four-time defending state champion Bronson in a regional semifinal, going on to earn a 25-10, 25-11, 25-12 state semifinal sweep over No. 10 Saginaw Valley Lutheran (40-9-5) Friday. Schoolcraft has yet to lose a set in seven postseason matches.
Simkins, a 5-10 senior outside hitter who signed last week with Western Michigan, had 13 kills and a .367 hitting percentage as Schoolcraft hit a sizzling .342 as a team, with Morris contributing seven kills with a .500 hitting percentage, and Schuppel six kills with a .429 hitting clip. Junior setter Kayla Onken finished with 28 assists.
All semifinals and finals at Kellogg Arena, Battle Creek
Mendon def. Southfield Christian, 27-25, 17-25, 19-25, 25-22, 15-13
Leland def. Rudyard, 25-21, 25-14, 25-15
Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Lowell def. Lake Orion, 17-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-15
Farmington Hills Mercy def. Ann Arbor Skyline, 25-13, 25-15, 25-15
Final: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Schoolcraft def. Saginaw Valley Lutheran, 25-10, 25-11, 25-12
Monroe St. Mary C.C. def. Beaverton, 25-20, 25-17, 25-7
Final: Saturday, noon
Lake Odessa Lakewood def. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 25-17, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20
Grand Rapids Christian def. Kingsley, 25-21, 25-14, 25-10
Final: Saturday, 4 p.m.