BATTLE CREEK –Kellogg Arena has to be one of the best venues I have visited for a high school sporting event. Big enough to look big without seeming empty. Student cheering sections located at either end erupting with every point and the stands filled from end line to end line. It is a great place to watch volleyball. With this trip to the final four the Beaverton Volleyball program has joined some elite company.
A look at the other semifinalists reveals a who’s who in the sport. Lake Orion was back to defend its title in Class A but came up short in the semifinals losing to Lowell. Farmington Hills Mercy beat Ann Arbor Skyline in the other semifinal. Mercy then defeated Lowell 3-1 to take the 2019 crown. Mercy was the 2010 runner-up.
2018 Class B Champion Grand Rapids Christian returned along with runner-up Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. Grand Rapids successfully defended its crown beating Lake Odessa Lakewood 3-0 in the championship match. Kingsley was the fourth member of the Class B Final Four. The Stags finished second in Class C back in 2004. Notre Dame Prep has two state championships, Lakewood has one to go along with four second place finishes.
There was going to be a new state champion in Class C. Four-time defending champion Bronson didn’t make the trip to Battle Creek this year after losing to Schoolcraft in regional play. Even without the defending champ Class C was loaded. Monroe St. Mary had five state championships and two runners-up finishes going into the weekend. Schoolcraft won the championship in 2008 and finished second in 2014. Beaverton and Saginaw Valley Lutheran were the other semifinalist. St. Mary defeated Schoolcraft in five sets to claim their sixth state championship.
Defending champion Mendon, headlined the Class D field which included 2018 runner up Leland along with Southfield Christian and Rudyard. Mendon and Leland are no strangers to finals. Mendon had four championships before beating Leland on Saturday to defend their title. Leland has three state championships and four second place finishes.
The Beavers seem to be at a point where they reload rather than rebuild. They lose only two seniors, Macie Jerome and Averie Bassage, while returning eight regulars. Juniors Mady Pahl, Molly Gerow, and Becca Wirt form a nice core with Sophomores Alexis Grove and Hannah Sterns both coming up big at various times during the season. Designated server Logan Matthews was strong all year while freshman Faith Danielak stepped up after the injury to Raylin Jenkins. If Jenkins can return to form – she led the team in blocks even after missing time – the Beavers will be formidable again. A return to Battle Creek is a definite possibility.