Novi defeats Ann Arbor Skyline in marathon Division 1 quarterfinal match

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ypsilanti — The state volleyball tournament resumed Tuesday night after a two-month stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Novi defeated Ann Arbor Skyline 22-25, 29-27, 25-21, 18-25, 19-17  during a thrilling two-hour Division 1 state quarterfinal match.

Novi, which won three straight Class A state championships from 2015-17, will play Lowell Friday at 6:30 in a state semifinal match at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek with the winner moving on to Saturday’s state title bout.

Skyline, which swept its regional final match against Temperance Bedford back on Nov. 12, was playing without head coach Chris Cristian who tested positive.

Skyline was trying to make it back to Battle Creek to take care of unfinished business after getting eliminated by eventual state champion Farmington Hills Mercy in last year’s state semifinal, but it didn’t happen.

Novi's Caleigh Robinson hits a shot over the net against Ann Arbor Skyline in the first game.

No, Novi wouldn't let it happen. Skyline had multiple chances to close out the match in Game 5, leading 16-15 and 17-16, but Novi would get the equalizer each time, then finally win when Sarah Vellucci's tip and Rachel Karr's kill.

"I'm shocked, just still shocked we pulled it out," Vellucci said. "When we were down 10-7, Coach (Kacy Byron) just talked about how hard we worked and how we just needed to finish. We pulled together. It was incredible to win it like that. We have great team chemistry and showed we had each other's back. We really came together."

Novi still trailed 11-8 before scoring four straight points to take a 12-11 lead, starting with Carleigh Robinson's kill and ending with consecutive aces from Vellucci.

"I've been working hard on my serve and it's paid off for me," Vellucci said.

Skyline did win Game 1 behind the strong play of 6-foot-1 sophomore outside hitter Harper Murray who consistently pounded the ball with authority.

Novi came back to even the match in a marathon Game 2, which lasted more than a half-hour, 29-27. Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Vellucci did a strong job of blocking and also had consecutive aces to open a 15-5 Novi lead.

Skyline pulled even multiple times, only to have Novi’s senior middle blocker Megha Gondi get kills or tips to get the lead back before junior right-side hitter Rachel Karr closed out Game 2 with a kill.

Novi used the momentum to win Game 3, 25-21 with senior middle blocker Caleigh Robinson playing well, getting numerous kills and blocks to take a 13-9 lead, then having kills from Gondi and Vellucci to increase the lead to 20-14 before senior outside hitter Gaby Cummings closed out the game with consecutive kills, the second one on a tip.

Skyline pushed the match to a fifth and final game with a 25-18 Game 4 win with Murray at her best, hitting an assortment of kills by powering the ball, along with a mix of tips.

Quarterfinals results


Division 1

Birmingham Marian 3, Macomb Dakota 0

Clarkston 3, Grand Blanc 1

Lowell 3, Portage Central 0

Novi 3, Ann Arbor Skyline 2

Division 2

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 3, Warren Regina 0

Lake Odessa Lakewood 3, AA Gabriel Richard 0

Cadillac 3, Birch Run 2

Grand Rapids Christian 3, Edwardsburg 0

Division 3

Saginaw Valley Lutheran 3, Royal Oak Shrine 0

Schoolcraft 3, Grandville Calvin Christian 0

Beaverton 3, Calumet 0

Monroe St. Mary CC 3, Bronson 0

Division 4

Mesick 3, Fowler 2

Battle Creek St. Philip 3, Lansing Christian 2

Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 3, Ubly 1

Carney-Nadeau 3, Rudyard 1