By: Butch Harmon
Volleyball tournament preview
By BUTCH HARMON
While the action is at fever pitch outside with the state football playoffs in November, some pretty sizzling action is taking place inside as well, as the state volleyball tournament gets into full swing.
High School Sports Scene takes a look at the tournament, breaks down the teams to watch locally, and predicts how the tournament could shake out on the state level.
The favorite: Dakota
Last year’s state champion has been defeated just once this season. Dakota is a powerful squad that is led by, arguably, the state’s finest player. Senior outside hitter Carli Snyder is a three-time all-state selection. A powerful hitter, Snyder has committed to play at the University of Florida.
The contenders: Marian, Lake Orion, East Grand Rapids, Novi
Marian has an outstanding team led by middle hitter Jessie Kopmeyer. Lake Orion has been the team to beat in Oakland County all season. East Grand Rapids brings a powerful team out of West Michigan and is paced by two-time all-state setter Maeve McDonald.
Local teams to watch: Rockford, Haslett, Mt. Pleasant, Bay City Western, Midland Dow, Grand Ledge, Flushing
Rockford, with the potent one-two offensive punch of Chloe VanderWeide and Shannon Winicki and with an excellent setter in Abby Carlson, has the potential for a deep tournament run.
Haslett is up in Class A this season and has a talented one-two punch in Makenna Ott and Maria Kronner. It is capable of getting on a roll.
Kasey McGillvary and Briana Zimmer are a pair of solid hitters for Mt. Pleasant. Megan Kramer, an excellent all-around player for the Oilers, is an excellent setter and defensive player with a strong serve.
Midland Dow has been playing strong volleyball this season. The Chargers have a solid setter, Kylee Juday, who directs a strong attack that features Helena Atton. Kaylee Talt is a defensive standout for the Chargers, who is also a strong server.
Grand Ledge has a young squad that has turned in a solid season. Junior middle hitter Cori Crocker is a talented player, along with standout senior Kelli Combs.
Flushing won the Saginaw Valley League South this season. Carson Rutherford has been a big hitter for the Raiders, who also get solid defensive play form Sydney Mattar and who have an excellent setter in Lexi Kiefer.
HSSS projected final: Dakota over East Grand Rapids
The favorite: Notre Dame Preparatory
Notre Dame Prep is a talented team coming out of the Detroit Catholic League. Katherine Carlson is a strong middle hitter, and Dani McCormick has also been a force.
The contenders: Wayland, North Branch, Grand Rapids South Christian, Holland Christian
The west side of the state is home to some solid volleyball teams. Wayland has a tall and talented team that has been battling South Christian for the top spot in the O-K Gold Conference. Holland Christian will also have a say on who comes out of West Michigan, while North Branch has a deep and talented team in the Thumb.
Local teams to watch: Lakewood, Frankenmuth, Mt. Morris
Lakewood is the defending Class B state champion, but it graduated last year’s starting lineup. The Vikings have done a good job of rebuilding this season and have a solid hitter in Gabbie Shellenbarger, but they must get past a powerful Wayland team in the district.
Frankenmuth has been playing solid volleyball all season. Lindsey Mertz has a good all-around game, Kaitlyn DeGrace is a talented defensive player, and Kelsey Baarck has been a big hitter.
Mt. Morris has also been playing some steady volleyball this season.
HSSS projected final: Notre Dam Prep over Grand Rapids South Christian
The favorite: Mendon
The Hornets have tested themselves against some of the stronger volleyball programs in southwest Michigan this season. Brooke Howard is a talented all-around player, while setter Loryn Baughman has been an offensive catalyst.
The contenders: Beal City, St. Louis, Unionville-Sebewaing, Morley Stanwood
Some of the best Class C volleyball in the state has been taking place in mid-Michigan this fall. Perennial power St. Louis has been piling up the wins, as has Beal City. Morley Stanwood is also primed for another deep playoff run.
Local teams to watch: Beal City, St. Louis, Morley Stanwood, New Lothrop
Addie Schumacher is a talented offensive force who leads the way for Beal City, while Melanie Schafer has been a force on both offense and defense. The Aggies are tough to beat.
St. Louis features a punishing one-two punch of Bri Alspaugh and Brooke Tubbs, while Michaela Austin is one of the premier setters in the area.
Morley Stanwood is fundamentally solid. Mekayla Carey and Kayla Rosman are a pair of talented offensive players who can also get the job done defensively.
New Lothrop has been playing some excellent volleyball this season, as well. Morgan Rombach is one of the leaders of the offense, while Emily Severn is a strong offensive player who is also effective on the defensive end.
HSSS projected final: Beal City over Mendon
The favorite: St. Philip Catholic Central
The Tigers have dominated Class D volleyball in the past, and this season has been no different. Sierra Hubbard-Neil is a dynamic outside hitter who leads the way and is headed to Western Michigan University next season.
The contenders: Our Lady of the Lakes, Onaway, Hillsdale Academy
Our Lady of the Lakes is an athletic squad that is always a tough out in the state tournament. Onaway is the premier team out of northern Michigan this season, while Hillsdale Academy has been playing some solid volleyball all season in southern Michigan.
Local teams to watch: Sacred Heart Academy, Fulton, Ashley, Portland St. Patrick
Sacred Heart has tested itself against some of the toughest teams in mid-Michigan this season. The Irish have the talent to make a deep playoff run. Lexie Methner is a force at the net, while Sara Hansen is a talented setter who also possesses a strong serve. Lauren Sabuda has been playing some steady defense all season.
Fulton, Ashley, and Portland St. Patrick will all be at the same district at Fowler. Fulton has a solid squad, led by Amanda Madden. Ashley has a pair of strong hitters in Kelsey Smith and Meggan Andrew, while Megan Seifert is a productive setter.
HSSS projected final: St. Philip Catholic Central over Our Lady of the Lakes