Madison 3-Sporter Wall Soars in Every Season

January 25, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

ADRIAN – How good of a senior year is Kaiya Wall having?

In the fall, Wall again earned all-state honors after leading Adrian Madison to 47 victories, conference and District championships, and she signed a letter of intent to play Division I volleyball after high school.

This winter, her Madison basketball team is 8-0, ranked among the state’s 10 best Division 3 teams by The Associated Press and sitting atop the Tri-County Conference.

What’s more amazing is her best might still be yet to come. Wall figures to be an anchor on a Madison girls track squad that has won 87 consecutive Tri-County Conference dual meets and could be an MHSAA title contender this spring.

“I don’t know if she has a ‘best’ sport,” said Madison track coach Josh Powers. “She is pretty darn good at all three she is playing.”

Wall is one of those rare athletes who can jump from sport to sport without skipping a beat. In the summer, she would split time between summer basketball and travel volleyball.

She is the third-leading scorer on Madison’s undefeated basketball team heading into tonight’s TCC clash with Ottawa Lake Whiteford. She also is one of top defenders on a suffocating Trojans defense giving up just 24.3 points per game. Three of Madison’s last four opponents have been held to 20 or fewer points.

Wall missed basketball season last year due to an injury, but her return this year has solidified the Trojans on the court.

“Kaiya has made a tremendous impact on our team this season,” Madison basketball coach Rick McNeil said. “She is very quick and has become an outstanding defender.”

Wall also has improved on the offensive end. McNeil said that has been the biggest difference for her.

“She has developed her ball handling skills, and we are able to move her to the guard position where she is a match-up problem for many teams because of her height and speed,” McNeil said. “She is an excellent passer and has the ability to hit the perimeter shot.”

Playing volleyball in college was far from a slam dunk decision. She also was recruited for track.

“I struggled deciding between track and volleyball,” Wall said. “I’ve gone on visits for both. I knew I wanted to play something in college. When I fell in love with that campus, I just decided I wanted to play volleyball.”

Wall was the Lenawee County volleyball player of the year as a junior and has earned second-team all-state honors three years running. She finished her career just shy of 2,000 kills and signed to play collegiately at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.

During her career she played in 545 sets, compiling 1,986 kills, 933 digs and 280 blocks – strong numbers for a girl who didn’t play competitive volleyball until seventh grade and only after friends talked her into it.

“I was terrible,” she said. “I was this tall, skinny girl, and they were like, ‘OK, you can play.’”

Her friends made a smart choice. Wall blossomed into a 5-foot-11 outside hitter.

“When I first met Kaiya, she was very raw with so much natural athleticism,” said Kathy Albers, now the head coach at Ypsilanti Lincoln who at one time coached Wall in travel volleyball. “She just needed to be taught and for someone to believe in her – but push her. After her first year of club with us, the talent was so apparent.

“She improved so much faster than most. Her height plus her jumping ability makes her tough at the net, and her quickness makes up for everything else.”

At Madison, Wall played for Dawn Opsal for her first three years and Kelsey Cortright this past season. Cortright stepped into the Madison job and saw first-hand Wall’s athleticism and leadership ability.

“Most importantly, she puts her team before herself,” Cortright said. “She is selfless and encouraging to all those around her, making her a role model for others both on and off the court. Outside of her abilities as a team leader, her athletic ability is remarkable.”

Jackson State coaches noticed that ability before ever seeing her in person. They found out about her by viewing a highlight video she had posted online. They reached out, and she went to Mississippi for a visit and fell in love with the campus and volleyball program.

Another criteria that helped her choose Jackson State was its academics. Wall has a 3.93 grade-point average and ranks 12th in her senior class at Madison.

“I plan on going into pre-med,” she said. “I want to be a trauma surgeon. They have a very good program.”

Had she not become enamored with the volleyball program, she might have been a track signee.

Wall won the Division 3 Finals 100-meter hurdles title as a freshman. As a sophomore she helped Madison win the team championship by finishing second in the high jump. Last year she was ninth in the high jump, second in the 100 hurdles and on the runner-up 1,600 relay team as the Trojans placed seventh as a team.

Powers, who will be inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame next week in Lansing, said Wall is determined.

“She takes advice and works on it,” he said. “I am, and I think she is, expecting her best track season yet.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Adrian Madison’s Kaiya Wall works to deflect a shot this season against Clinton. (Middle) Wall serves during a Division 3 Volleyball Semifinal in 2016.

Hemlock, Rockford Follow 3-Point Success to 1st Titles, Record Book Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 1, 2023

Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.

The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.

The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.

Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.

Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.

Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:

Girls Basketball

Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).

Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.

Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.

Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.

Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.

Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.

Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.

Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.

Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.

Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.

Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).

Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.

Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.

Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.

PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.