Everest combines mind, body and spirit to win state volleyball championship

Everest Collegiate's volleyball team played unprecedented grueling back-to-back five-set matches to win the state Division 4 championship. “We had the motto ‘All for Christ, all for Him,’” junior Sarah Bradley said. “It really gave us a deeper meaning of winning.” First row (left to right): Caroline Beggs, Elena Neiman, Samantha Pietras, Clare Terbrack, Erica Walker, Olivia Leahy, coach Danielle Walker. Back row (left to right): Assistant coach Natalie Lasceski, Emily Smith, Grace Groves, Rebecca Berney, Addison Pearce, Madelyn Krappmann, Sarah Bradley, assistant coach Grace Lowney. (Photos courtesy of Everest Athletic Department)

CLARKSTON — In 2005, the Michigan High School Athletic Association adopted the scoring policy for girls volleyball matches requiring the best of five sets, each set played up to 25 points and a two-point margin of victory with a final set played to 15 points and the similar margin of victory.

Since then, no girls volleyball team has played unprecedented grueling back-to-back five-set matches to win a state championship until the Everest Mountaineers squad accomplished the deed within a hectic span of 24 hours Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17-18.

It took mind, body and spirit to do it.

At noon Friday in a semi-final match at the Battle Creek Kellogg Arena, No. 10-ranked Everest, despite losing the first two sets, upset top-rated Adrian Lenawee Christian, 17-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16, 15-11 and moved on to the final at 10 a.m. the next day.

Up against No. 4 Leland, the Mountaineers rallied from a similar two-set deficit for a 25-27, 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-13 victory to claim the state Division 4 championship.

“It all started last spring,” athletic director Ann Serra-Lowney said. “The state asked if we would host district or regionals. I remember going to our principal, Greg Reichert. We usually have a play that week. I told him I think we have a chance this year to win the regional. Is there any way we can move the play in order to make this happen? He said ‘Definitely.’”

In June, Everest announced the hiring of a new head coach, Danielle Walker, a pre-school teacher at Everest Academy. A graduate of Oxford High School (2007) and Central Michigan University, where she played volleyball, her previous coaching experience included the seventh-grade team at West Bloomfield Middle School and the junior varsity team at West Bloomfield High School.

“Danielle’s knowledge of volleyball is amazing,” Serra-Lowney said. “The girls respected her right from the beginning.”

“Every time we stepped on the court,” Walker said, “they played better and better as a team. We went to a couple of tournaments with higher division teams. We found we could compete with them. It boosted our confidence that we could play at a higher level.”

Everest won the district and regional on its home court, and then proceeded to Fenton to sweep No. 6 Marlette 3-0 in the quarterfinal.

“They just wouldn’t quit,” Walker said.

Parents transported the players to Battle Creek on Thursday night, the eve of the semi-final.

“We tried to keep them busy,” Serra-Lowney said. “We kept them together as a team. We didn’t have a lot of down time. (Friday morning) we got the girls up and went to St. Philip’s for Mass, then breakfast, pack up, get in the car and go.”

After Everest lost the first two sets to Lenawee Christian, Serra-Lowney handed a copy of the tournament program to her daughter, Gloria, one of the assistant coaches, urging her to “Show them these scores — 13-25 and 14-25 — because the team last year (D4 champ Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart) lost (the first two) and came back and won. This is not over.”

Left to right, juniors Sarah Bradley, Madelyn Krappmann, Erica Walker and Addison Pearce show off their 2023 MHSAA Division 4 championship gear. Combining their semifinal and final performances, Bradley totaled 56 kills, 31 digs and nine aces. Krappmann followed with 40 kills and 32 digs, Walker had 102 assists and Pearce 20 digs. Bradley’s 31 kills in the championship game is sixth best in state history. Walker’s 57 assists in the finals is tied for second best.
Left to right, juniors Sarah Bradley, Madelyn Krappmann, Erica Walker and Addison Pearce show off their 2023 MHSAA Division 4 championship gear. Combining their semifinal and final performances, Bradley totaled 56 kills, 31 digs and nine aces. Krappmann followed with 40 kills and 32 digs, Walker had 102 assists and Pearce 20 digs. Bradley’s 31 kills in the championship game is sixth best in state history. Walker’s 57 assists in the finals is tied for second best.

Juniors Madelyn Krappmann, a setter, and outside hitter Sarah Bradley combined for 16 kills to win the fourth set. Everest raced to a 14-6 lead in the fifth set. Bradley closed it with her 25th kill.

Serra-Lowney said the players got back to the hotel about 3:30 p.m. An hour later, the team and parents had dinner together. They had planned to go back and watch the Farmington Hills Mercy vs. Clarkston semi-final, but the start had been delayed so they watched it on TV.

“The kids were also in the middle of semester finals,” Serra-Lowney said. “Some did some studying before going to bed.”

“Saturday, we did it all over again, just two hours earlier,” Serra-Lowney said. “I don’t know if they got much sleep.” She added, “It was great that parents were so supportive, and I was proud of students who made the two-hour bus trip two days in a row.”

It was Friday all over again: Everest lost the first two sets to Leland.

After the second game, Serra-Lowney said Fr. Thomas (Salazar, LC, school chaplain) screamed to them, “Girls, all for Him, all for Him,” in reference to Jesus.

“We just went out and played so much harder," Krappmann said. "We just came alive and something happened when we united in that message.”

Leland led most of the way in the third set, but Everest scored six of the final seven points to come away with the 25-22 victory.

The Mountaineers took seven of the last nine points to close out the fourth, 25-19.

In the fifth set, Bradley came through with five kills and Krappmann three. Bradley served an ace for the championship point.

Bradley finished with 31 kills, 18 digs and four aces. Krappmann finished with 20 kills and 18 digs, while setter Erica Walker tallied 57 assists and had 11 digs. Samantha Pietras added 14 digs.

“We had the motto, ‘All for Christ, all for Him,’” Bradley said. “It led us to focus not on ourselves but focus on Who gave us these talents, Who we are playing for. It really gave us a deeper meaning of winning.”

Monday was exams day back at school. The girls wore “State Champion” sweatshirts.

“We surprised the girls,” Serra-Lowney said. ”We painted their cars with ‘Everest State Champs.’ When the boys golfers, who won the MHSAA Division 3 title in October, complained, we painted their cars, too.”

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].



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