PONTIAC — Before her Fighting Irish volleyballers took the court Wednesday evening for a highly anticipated match against Bloomfield Hills Marian, coach Betty Wroubel said, “You know, they’ve got a lot of height. They’re much taller than we are” — and she held her hands about a foot apart.
On deck was an early showdown between two state powerhouses: Defending Division 1 champ Marian, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 5 nationally, and Notre Dame Prep, No. 2 in Division 2.
After the match, those hands were raised sky high in jubilation over her girls’ 25-20, 19-25, 25-15 victory.
“We’ve been talking from Day One about mental toughness,” Wroubel said. “We played probably as well as we could. We gave it our best shot. This kind of win motivates us to keep working harder.”
“I think this loss was good for our team,” Mustangs coach Mayssa Cook philosophized, “especially against a good team. They played their ‘A’ game. We probably played our ‘C’ game.”
The first set was tied at 4-4 and again at 15-15. Notre Dame’s defense time and time again stymied Marian’s offense. The Mustangs’ frustration was reflected in that they committed 17 unenforced errors.
“We served very, very well and took them a little bit out of their system,” Wroubel said. “We thought if we could get them in a long rally, we could win that rally. We made some tremendous saves to keep the ball in play.”
Marian regrouped in the second set behind the firepower of Ava Brizard’s five kills and four in a six-serve stretch by freshman Izzy Busignani to build a 19-11 advantage and set the stage for a third and deciding set.
About Brizard, committed to North Caroline State: the 6-foot-1 outside hitter with a howitzer for a right arm has started her senior year and fourth year on the varsity with 1,536 kills. She had 13 against the Irish in this game, but what had the crowd oohing and aahing were several shots that liberos Allison Berent and Josie Bloom coped with. “How they were able to stand on their feet was something,” Wrobel said.
From a 1-1 tie to start the third set, Notre Dame methodically built a 15-11 lead, then outscored the Mustangs 10-4 the rest of the way for the win.
For Marian, senior Sophie Treder had 13 digs and junior Ava Sarafa 25 assists.
For the Irish, senior Josie Bloom had 19 digs, senior Sophia Sudzina 10 kills and Bianca Giglio 8. Senior Alyssa Borellis served 12 points to go with 5 kills and 11 assists.
The Marian-ND Prep match was the sixth played in the quad meet. Earlier, Notre Dame beat Flint Powers Catholic 25-6, 25-11 and Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 25-10, 25-13 to raise their record to 21-0.
Marian beat Stoney Creek 25-8, 25-10 and Powers Catholic 26-9, 25-16. The Mustangs are 14-1 for the season.
Powers Catholic defeated Stoney Creek 25-21, 25-20.
Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].