Marian, Notre Dame ride youth movement to state volleyball semifinals

MACOMB — “I remember you.”

That was coach Mayssa Cook’s welcoming remark to this scribe after her Bloomfield Hills Marian volleyball crew had disposed of Macomb Dakota to advance to the Division 1 semifinals in quarterfinal matches hosted by L’Anse Creuse North.

It seems that at the beginning of the volleyball season — nearly six months ago! — a suggestion was offered that in view that her team had no seniors that perhaps next year would be the Mustangs’ opportunity for a state championship.

“I won’t let you forget that,” she smiled.

Of course, that was before Marian beat nemesis Farmington Hills Mercy, ranked No. 1 at the time, for the Catholic League championship and again in the MHSAA playoff regional finale.

“I guess that makes us No. 1,” Cook said. “Now we have the target on our back.”

Her roster of four juniors, seven sophomores and four freshmen played like experienced seniors, with confidence, energy and enthusiasm.

“The (8-week, COVID-related) pause was tough,” she said. “We may have lost some momentum, but this is a hard-working group. They love each other. They play for each other.”

All-State junior Ava Brizard fired a dozen kills in a flawless performance to keep the buzz going that she is a sure Miss Volleyball candidate next year.

“I knew that when she was a freshman,” Cook said.

Junior Sophia Treder (11 kills), junior Sarah Sylvester (6 kills, 2 blocks) and sophomore Ella Shomer dominated the net to beat Dakota 25-14, 25-15, 25-13.

Marian will face Clarkston at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, in the semifinals at the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. The winner will take on either Lowell or Novi at 2 p.m. the next day for the state crown.

The Irish ‘gangbusters’ move on

Betty Wroubel has a youth movement, too, at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. She has just one senior on her 15-member roster.

“We were hungry to play after the two-month layoff,” she said. “We came out like gangbusters.” 

The Irish combined a balanced attack and a tenacious defense to beat Warren Regina 25-14, 25-13, 25-20.

All State junior Aly Borellis set the pace for the offense with 13 kills, nine serving points and 11 digs.

The lone senior and an All-State selection, too, Livy Kowalkowski (committed to Georgia State) was “rock solid on defense,” Wroubel said, with 17 serve receptions and 15 digs. “She is a great leader and defender.” 

“There were a lot of good things tonight,” Wroubel said. “I really need to credit our reserves. They have improved so much during the course of the season, but especially in the past couple of weeks. They push our starters so much and force them to make great plays.”

Notre Dame will be going to its fourth consecutive Division 2 final four when they meet Lake Odessa Lakewood, the same team that ousted the Irish a year ago in the semi-finals, at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15, at the Kellogg Arena. The winner will play either Cadillac or Grand Rapids Christian on Friday for the state championship.

Lakewood, by the way, moved into the semi-final by beating Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard in three sets.

In a Division 3 quarterfinal, Royal Oak Shrine’s season ended in a loss to Saginaw Valley Lutheran. 

Swimming finals, and football semis

Three Lower Peninsula Finals will be conducted Friday, Jan. 15 (diving) and Saturday, Jan. 16 (swimming).

Farmington Mercy, coached by Mike Venos, will be seeking its fourth consecutive Division 1 championship in finals held at Hudsonville High School.

Division 3 finals, where Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood was runner-up the last two years, will be staged at Lake Orion High School.

Semi-final games will be played out on the gridiron. 

On Friday, Clarkston Everest (10-0) meets Centreville (9-0) in a Division 8 contest at 7 p.m. at the Legacy Center in Brighton.

On Saturday, at 12 noon, Oak Park (5-5) plays Warren De La Salle (6-4) on the Pilots’ turf in a Division 2 battle.

At stake for the winners: to play for the state championship on Jan. 22 at Ford Field.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].