By: Daniel Stickradt
Fifth-ranked Rockford provides stiffest challenge of postseason for No. 1 Novi
CLASS A GIRLS VOLLEYBALL:
BY DAN STICKRADT
BATTLE CREEK — Rockford accomplished something in the Class A state finals that few teams have been able to do all season — win a set against top-ranked Novi.
In the end, it was not enough.
Even the fifth-ranked Rams’ best effort came up short Nov. 19 at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena, as nationally-ranked Novi prevailed over Rockford, 3-1, for its second straight crown in the Class A state finals.
Novi prevailed 25-22, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, even though the Wildcats faced perhaps its stiffest challenge of the postseason from Rockford.
It marked Rockford’s first state finals appearance since 2011 — the year the Rams walked off the court with a state title.
Novi, which posted 48 sweeps over 55 matches, found itself in a 1-1 deadlock with Rockford before the Wildcats pulled ahead with two more set victories.
“It was a great match,” said Rockford coach Kelly Delacher. “Novi obviously is a great team. They have a lot of big offensive weapons. We felt like we felt that we could come in and play some really good defense. We held them to a .142 hitting percentage, which I think is pretty good against that caliber team with their firepower. I was very happy with how we competed and kept ourselves in every single game. We gave ourselves a chance to win and that’s all I can asked for.”
Rockford, which will return 12 of 16 players off its tournament roster next season, had a memorable run in this season’s tournament to finish 48-9-1. The Rams also captured the OK-Conference Red Division this season to go along with their district and regional titles and Final Four berth.
“I think we are a very good defensive team and a very well-balanced (offensive) team,” added Delacher. “We have five good hitters. We play great defense. I thought we did a good job blocking. We just lost to a great team.”
The Rams defeated No. 4 Portage Central (3-2) in the state quarterfinals and honorable mention Temperance-Bedford 3-2 in the state semifinals.
In regional play, the Rams swept Zeeland West (3-0) and edged No. 9 Grand Haven (3-2) in the regional finals. The district rounds saw Rockford pull a pair a 3-0 sweeps over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern and Lowell.
Rockford should join Novi and Clarkston as front runners next season with its high level of talent returning.
“We have a lot of girls coming back for sure, but we lose some key pieces to this year’s team,” said Delacher. “Those seniors provided us with some great leadership. Really, they were the backbone to our season this year and will be really tough to replace.”