Volleyball finals roundup: Oakland Christian pushes Battle Creek St. Philip to limit in five-set loss
Battle Creek – Auburn Hills Oakland Christian battled back from a 2-0 set deficit in the Division 4 state volleyball final Saturday morning at Kellogg Arena, pulling within two points of earning its first championship before falling to powerhouse Battle Creek St. Philip, 25-8, 25-15, 22-25, 22-25, 17-15.
St. Philip looked well on its way to a sweep when it dominated the opening set with 5-foot-9 junior outside hitter Brooke Dzwik contributing seven kills, then eight more in the second set.
Oakland Christian regrouped, shaking off its nerves while playing better defense to win the next two sets to force a fifth and deciding set.
The fifth set was even at 15 before Harleen Deol’s kill and an Oakland Christian kill, which missed the mark to end the match.
Deol was St. Philip’s lone senior and was thrilled to give St. Philip its 21st state championship and first since nine straight from 2007-14.
“I felt this was about time we got another one for Coach Groat,” Deol said. “I’ve been dreaming about this since the fifth grade, so my dream has come true my senior year.”
Dwzik finished with 37 kills — second-most in state title game history — and 32 digs while setter Rachel Myers had 51 assists; Deol, 16 kills; Baily Fancer, 29 digs and Kate Doyle, 20 digs.
“This never gets old,” said Vicky Groat, who guided St. Philip to its 11th state title in 23 years with her mother, Sheila Guerra, winning nine state titles before her. “That was truly a great volleyball match. Our team didn’t take it for granted and I really wanted our kids to experience this. This is their first (state championship) and I’m proud of them.
“Oakland Christian is a great team and they did not quit. I kept thinking after Game 3 when we lost and the way we played in Game 4 that I was back in 2006 when we were playing Leland in the state championship and we won the first two games and got shut out in three, four and five, so I had a little motivation and a lot of prayers to be able to pull that out.
“I thought the girls did a great job to be able to battle and take Games 1 and 2. Oakland Christian then played like they were capable of playing and they came out firing and played a great 3, 4 and 5. So, I feel fortunate that we’re sitting here as state champions in Division 4.”
While Groat has 11 state championships in 23 years at St. Philip, Oakland Christian made its remarkable run to Battle Creek with a coach in Brian Theut who took the head job a week and a half into the season last summer. He had his team buy into his defensive style and team aspect.
“They just bought in and said we have this goal that we want to go to state and win state,” Theut said. “Our defense this year has just been solid and I’m a big defensive coach, feeling that offense will follow.
“We knew this weekend would be a roller-coaster and all I told the girls was to stay in it, stay in it, and the thing that we’ve been talking about today especially, to control our side, control our side. I just wanted us to compete and show that we could, wanted to kind of put us back on the map, so today was just that day of proving to them that we belonged here.”
Well, 5-foot-4 junior libero Olivia Colletti certainly bought in, playing outstanding defense by digging the ball out on Dzwik’s hitting and finishing with 36 digs.
“I was a defensive specialist last year and he moved me to libero and I wanted to prove that I could own that spot,” Colletti said. “My goal was to just keep the ball alive. At the beginning, we started a little nervous, but we continued to fight no matter what and didn’t give up.”
Oakland Christian 5-7 senior outside hitter Kaylee Page was pleased to end her career on the big stage.
“I’m extremely proud that we got to where we wanted to be,” said Page who had five kills and 13 digs. “It’s not the result we wanted. I wanted to win, but I’m proud of how we played.”
Setter Katie Hopkins had 27 assists for Oakland Christian which also received 10 kills from junior Anna Frazee and nine kills from junior Kylie Morga.
Grand Rapids Christian def. Lake Odessa Lakewood 25-20, 25-20, 25-19: Addie VanderWeide had 19 kills and Edie Doezema 16 for GR Christian. Alyssa DeVries had 43 assists and Lauren Peel had 17 digs. Aubrey O'Gorman had 17 kills for Lakewood.
Detroit News staff contributed.