D1 volleyball: Brizard, Sarafa help Birmingham Marian take the title
Battle Creek — Ava Brizard played the match of her life Saturday afternoon at Kellogg Arena to help Birmingham Marian earn its first state championship since 2010 with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-19 sweep over Lowell in the Division 1 title match.
Brizard, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter who will be a front-runner for Miss Volleyball next year, had 29 kills with an impressive .481 hitting percentage, contributing eight kills and a plus-.500 hitting mark in the opening set to set the tempo, then nine more in the second set before closing out the match with a dozen kills in set three.
Marian (35-5) was playing for its longtime athletic director David Feldman, who passed away Thursday following a long fight with COVID-19. Signs in the stands read: “Play For Dave,” and Feldman’s daughter, Jacqui Rose, attended the match, wearing her father’s cross and sweatshirt, then posed with the team with the state championship trophy following the match.
“There was a calmness when we practiced 45 minutes across the street (prior to the match), there was something different, every kid was calm and relaxed,” said Marian coach Mayssa (Bazzi) Cook who was hired by Feldman prior to the 2018 season. “I’m happy with the way we played and three (sets) is easier on my heart than five.
“We played our game today. They were relaxed, having fun the entire time and played as a team. One of the special things about our team is that you saw that everybody gets the ball, everybody gets kills.
“Obviously, it’s nice to have a player such as Ava (Brizard) who we call beast or our terminator, but yet at the end of the day Ava Sarafa, our setter, does an awesome job developing every hitter on our team.”
Still, it was Brizard who stood out, having back-to-back kills off of assists from Sarafa to end the match.
“We do call her our finisher or closer and our kids know she’s in the front row and we have capable hitters all around,” Cook said. “She’s hitting close to .500 on the season so the odds are 1 out of 2 that it will likely be a kill so let’s play those odds.”
Cook was thrilled to see her team play at a high level, saying she was looking for Marian to bring its “A” game for the final after not playing as well as she hoped in a five-set semifinal win over Clarkston on Friday.
Cook felt Marian was playing its best when it defeated defending Division 1 champion Farmington Hills Mercy in the regionals in November. She saw that same level of play on the big stage Saturday.
Brizard was thrilled with the state championship.
“I think this whole season was about resilience, didn’t get to start right away, started in August, practicing on muddy water and on the beach,” Brizard said.
“We dealt with all the punches that came our way, so finally to get here to Battle Creek and win the whole thing and play like we did out there, to play so amazing feels like all of the hard work paid off, and especially with Mr. Feldman passing we feel so grateful that we could do it for him. We know he’s definitely smiling and jumping around in heaven, cheering us on.”
Marian, which doesn’t have a senior on its roster, hit .358 as a team and received eight kills and a .333 hitting percentage from Ella Schomer and six kills and five digs from Sophie Treder. Sarafa had 39 assists and Lauren Heming 15 digs.
Miss volleyball runner-up and Marquette-bound Jenna Reitsma had 22 kills (.230 hitting percentage) for Lowell (35-5), which also had 32 assists from setter Sophie Powell and 17 digs from Emma Hall.
"I'm proud of our kids for the way they played," Lowell coach Jordan Drake said. "Marian really came at us today. They applied a lot of service pressure on us. They got us out of system a lot and that hurt us. Congrats to them. They are a phenomenal team."