Farmington Hills — In the fall, it was all about finesse and skill for Julia Bishop, who helped Farmington Hills Mercy to its first state volleyball championship along with the nation’s top player, Michigan-bound outside hitter Jess Mruzik.
Bishop, a 5-foot-10 setter, had 1,556 assists, including 54 in the Division 1 championship match win over No. 2 Lowell, to help Mercy finish 59-1.
Bishop started playing volleyball as a third grader, then knew she wanted to attend and play the sport at Michigan State when she was 10 and made multiple trips to East Lansing with her parents to watch the Spartans volleyball team play.
Bishop has already been offered … and is committed to MSU, and she is now thrilled to be playing another sport she loves, basketball.
Bishop is also an impact player on Mercy’s basketball team, helping it to an 11-0 start and No. 6 ranking in The News Super 20 poll.
Mercy, without a senior in its starting lineup, wasn’t supposed to be a Catholic League frontrunner or state power, but Bishop had 19 points and 13 rebounds in a 46-34 win over Birmingham Marian — ranked No. 8 in The News preseason rankings — on Jan. 7 and has continued to pile up wins since.
Bishop has developed into one of the premier multi-sport athletes in the state, and now it’s all about being physical for her while playing basketball.
“I love basketball,” Bishop said. “It’s just a sport that I can play just to play for the love of the game. My mom played college basketball at UM Dearborn, played her high school ball at Dearborn Fordson.
“I play forward, love it because it brings that contact, a different atmosphere into the game. It’s good to be able to let out that aggression, just be able go after the ball, hit the floor and be in contact with other people.”
Bishop also appreciates MSU’s coaching staff, especially longtime head coach Cathy George, for giving her the go-ahead to play basketball.
“It’s great that the Michigan State coaches let me do that because obviously the risk of injury is huge,” Bishop said. “I talked to them, said I want to play basketball and totally understand on your side of it that you’re scared because of the scholarship, and they said if that makes you happy as a person and still be a kid then do what you need to do.”
Bishop has been a physical presence on both ends for Mercy, averaging eight points and eight rebounds in a balanced attack.
“Julia is a very vocal leader,” said Mercy basketball coach Gary Morris whose team has won by an average margin of 25.8 points with the 12-point win over Marian its closest outcome. “She’s competitive and tends to play her best in our biggest games. As one of our more veteran players, she, along with our other captain Alexis Roberts, do a nice job in helping our new varsity players.
“We have really good depth and balance on our team, as we’ve had seven different players lead us in scoring in our 11 games. We also have played good defense. It’s a hard-working, coachable group who are good teammates to one another.”
John Kreger coached Julia’s mother in high school, and he sees a lot of the same qualities in Julia.
“I coached Julia’s mother, Barb Kulfan at Fordson and she controlled the whole 3-second area, had the best attitude of any boy or girl I’ve ever coached, all about, ‘What can I do to help the team win,’ never about her, and I’ve watched Julia play and see the same type of traits in her,” said Kreger. “It’s the same with Julia where if she doesn’t score but they win, she’s happy. There’s an awful lot of kids who play basketball, they could care less whether you get a W or an L, as long as they get their points, so it’s so refreshing to see a player like Julia, really that whole Mercy team play.”
And, on her decision to commit to MSU?
“That was my dream school since I was a kid, so I grew up going to those games,” Bishop said. “I used to go to Michigan games, too, with Jess (Mruzik), but when I went to State games I knew that as soon as the opportunity came I’d take it.
“I went to a bunch of (MSU’s) camps when I was a kid and just the intensity she (George) brings is something that I definitely need as a player. She’s like, ‘Hey, that’s a great play,’ but also, ‘You need to pick it up,’ so I think we already have that honest communication, and she already knows my strengths and weaknesses and I’m just 16 so that’s great.”
And, when asked to talk about next year’s volleyball team at Mercy, Bishop replied: “I’ll be taking that big leadership role coming into the games and it will be big to see how we do, especially since we have a lot of returners coming back, so to see some of the sophomores who got a good amount of time, to see how they improve over the club season and see what they do next year is going to be great.”
Bishop knows what it takes to win Miss Volleyball after witnessing Mruzik walk away with the honor.
Could Bishop be holding the Miss Volleyball award next November?
“I definitely saw what it took for her to do it,” Bishop said. “That’s definitely a goal of mine, but you have to keep working for it. I’m hoping for the best.”
Mercy coach Loretta Vogel will do her best to help Bishop walk away with the title of Miss Volleyball.
“For Jules, we’re setting up our fall schedule and we need to get her on the west side (of the state) so people see her because on our side of the state everyone is very familiar with her,” Vogel said of Bishop, who has helped Mercy win 160 of 172 matches during her career. “And, for Jules every year we’ve been in Battle Creek for the Final Four, so that’s a plus because I feel she is one of the top candidates for Miss Volleyball next fall.”
For now Bishop is focused on basketball, trying to help Mercy win the Catholic League title and make a run in the state tournament. Mercy will play at Marian Tuesday night in the rematch.
“We were surprised,” Bishop said of Mercy beating Marian. “We knew that we had what it takes to do it, but it was being able to actually do the task at hand and it was amazing. It was big because they were ranked fourth at the time.
“We have a very deep bench and we’re super athletic, have no seniors which is great, to know we’ll have everybody back. We have three freshmen who are contributing. It’s just been a lot of fun.”