Berrien Springs Volleyball Honored
In Legends Program
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE --March 9, 1999
Contact: John Johnson or Mike Clifford-- 517.332.5046
EAST LANSING, Mich. - March 9 - The first
school to ever win five Michigan High School Athletic Association
Lower Peninsula Girls Volleyball championships, Berrien Springs
High School, will be honored through the Association's "Legends
Of The Games" program at ceremonies between the Class C
and A title matches of the 1999 Lower Peninsula Finals at University
Arena in Kalamazoo on March 20. The ceremony will take place
at approximately 3:30 p.m. (EST).
In its second year, the Legends program promotes educational
athletics by showcasing some of the great teams of past years.
Berrien Springs won Class C titles in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984
and 1985. At least 21 members of those teams are expected to
be in attendance to receive commemorative plaques and a banner
to display at the school during the ceremony.
As the 1978-79 girls volleyball season was about to begin at
Berrien Springs High School, the team found itself without a
coach. Several players knew who they would like to take over
the vacancy. What happened after that became one of the biggest
success stories in Michigan high school volleyball history.
"One day, several of us went down to Mr. Bermingham's room,"
said Taynya Scofield, a setter on the team, referring to Jim
Bermingham, who was a teacher at the school. "He had been
our junior varsity coach, so we literally begged him to coach
the varsity team. If I remember right, we ended up promising
him a lot, like how hard we would work and that we'd never complain,
etc., before he finally agreed to take the job. Never in our
wildest dreams did we think the season would culminate in a state
For that matter, many never would have projected that over the
seven-year period that Bermingham coached the Shamrocks, they
would win five MHSAA championships, the first school in the Lower
Peninsula to do so; and appear in the Class C title match six
out of seven years.
The 1979 team was a veteran unit, starting five seniors and one
junior. It posted a 30-5 record, and on championship Saturday
on St. Patrick's day, the green-clad Shamrocks took the Class
C title at Grand Rapids Junior College, besting Bad Axe in the
semifinals, 15-10, 15-13; and Napoleon in the finals, 15-8, 15-12.
On the same day, a Class B champion was crowned -- Battle Creek
Pennfield -- a school which would do battle with Berrien Springs
in the final round of the tournament in three of the next four
Never before 1980, nor ever since have two MHSAA champions from
the previous year met in the finals. The possibility of it happening,
at least on paper, was unlikely. Berrien Springs returned only
one starter from the 1979 team - hitter Jackie Backus.
In the first title meeting at Chippewa Valley High School in
Mt. Clemens, Pennfield captured the opening match, 15-12, leading
at one point, 9-0. But the Shamrocks rallied to take the next
two games, 15-6 and 15-2, and became only the second school in
the history of the MHSAA volleyball tournament to win back-to-back
However, it was the Panthers' turn in 1981. Berrien Springs and
Pennfield were considered by many to be the best volleyball teams
regardless of class that season. This time, the battleground
was on Pennfield's home court in the semifinal round. After winning
the first game, 15-7, Berrien Springs' hopes of a third straight
title were dashed as Pennfield posted wins of 15-4 and 15-13.
Pennfield went on to capture the Class C championship.
The Shamrocks and the Panthers squared off in the title game
for the third straight time at Battle Creek Central's Fieldhouse
in 1982. It wasn't hard for Berrien Springs to be prepared for
the rubber game of the match.
"We wanted Pennfield in the finals," said hitter Vickie
Backus. "The added incentive made it easy to get ready.
It was very rewarding because we reversed roles with them. We
felt like we choked last year and our goal this season was to
get there and have another chance."
And when that chance came, Bermingham left nothing to chance.
"I'm kind of superstitious to a degree," Bermingham
said. "So we didn't wear the same uniforms to the finals
that we did last year. I didn't wear the same suit. The players
tried to wear the same pajamas that they wore two years ago,
They decorated the doors at the hotel the same way as two years
ago. We tried to change the bad things from last year and do
the good things from two years ago again."
The "good" came in the Shamrocks' 15-10, 16-14 win
over Pennfield in the finals.
"The first year was a surprise," Bermingham said. "And
the second year we came back with a team that had no right to
play with Pennfield that year. That was probably our greatest
win, The one thing about last year was that you forget how losing
feels when your're so successful. This year was really meaningful
because we had felt the other end of it last year."
Three more trips to the finals followed. A runner-up finish to
Burton Atherton (11-15, 15-13, 15-6) came in 1983 at Linden.
Returning to Linden with a senior-laiden group in 1984, Berrien
Springs landed in the winner's circle again, defeating Morenci,
10-15, 15-11, 15-13, coming back from a 13-2 deficit in the third
game of that mat
The final championship came under Bermingham in 1985, with the
Shamrocks taking the measure of Newaygo, 14-16, 15-6, 15-8. Jeff
Zimmerman then directed Berrien Springs to a sixth championship
in eight years in 1986 after Bermingham, now a superintendent
for Three Rivers Public Schools, stepped down from the coaching
This Legends of the Games group all point to Bermingham for their
success - on and off the playing surface during an incredible
seven-year run, and in their lives. That senitment was perhaps
summed up best in the words of Diana Bixby, an all-around player
from 1981 to 1984: "Bermingham was an exceptional coach.
I learned more life lessons from him than any other person. Not
only did he know the game, but he could motivate us beyond the
ordinary. He used to give these 'talks' during practice about
winning 'states.' I used to get so excited I couldn't sleep at
"I hope my boys will have a coach half as good as Jim was."
Expected to be in attandance at the awards cermony are (all last
names are from playing days):
Lynette Schoen - No. 14 -- Outside Hitter - 1981-82 and 1982-83
Tanya Scofield - No. 5 - Setter - 1976-77, 1977-78 and 1978-79
Stacy Stephens - No. 15 - Hitter - 1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85,
Lisa Kolosowsyk - No. 8 - Defensive Specialist/Server - 1979-80,
Thom Emerson - Manager - 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83
Jannette Szucs - No. 5 - Defensive Specialist/Setter - 1979-80,
Julie Parmer - No. 11 - Outside Hitter - 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82
DeAnn Adams - No. 4 - Setter - 1983-84, 1984-85
Kelly Whetstone - No. 8 - Setter - 1978-79, 1979-80
Beth Doepker - No. 7 - Hitter - 1980-81, 1981-82
Dawn Schultz - No. 6 - Setter - 1981-82, 1982-83
Tracy Slocum - No. 5 - Defensive Specialist - 1983-84, 1984-85
Patty Simko - No. 7 - Utility - 1983-84, 1984-85
Rhonda Thran - No. 9 - Hitter - 1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82
Vicki Brohard - No. 13 - Hitter - 1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86,
Diana Bixby - No. 9 - Utility - 1982-83, 1983-84
Jackie Backus - No. 7 -- Hitter 1978-79, 1979-80
Kim Flory - No. 10 - Outside Hitter - 1983-84, 1984-85
Ellen Williams - Assistant Coach - 1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85
Pam Kugel - No. 4 -- Setter -- 1978-79
Karen Doepker - No. 7 - Hitter - 1981-81, 1982-83