Believe it: Mercy Nets 2nd Finals Title with 'Unbelievable' Comeback

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 18, 2023

BATTLE CREEK – Loretta Vogel had a single word to describe Farmington Hills Mercy’s five-set victory Saturday in the Division 1 Volleyball Final: Unbelievable.

“When we played Marian, to me, that was everything for me,” the Mercy coach said of her team’s Quarterfinal win over the 2022 Division 1 champion. “We planned, we knew what we wanted to do, and we went in there and it was three games – bing, bang, boom, here we go.

“Then it’s like, ‘We’re going to Battle Creek.’ We did our scouting reports, then to get in the Finals, to be down two games, such adversity, unbelievable. I don’t know if it’s going to hit me for six months, what we accomplished. It was unbelievable.”

After dropping the first two sets, Mercy came back to defeat Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 13-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-12 at Kellogg Arena, adding a second championship to the program’s first won in 2019.

The Marlins’ Kate Kalczynski (2) connects on a kill attempt with Kendall Hopewell (9) and Riley Loehfelm (16) putting up a block.The Marlins finished the season with a 32-15-3 record and entered the postseason outside the top 10 in Division 1. With just two seniors on the roster, three sophomores in the starting lineup and a freshman as one of their leading hitters, one can start to see how Vogel arrived at “unbelievable.”

Of course, on Saturday, they didn’t play like a young, unranked team, especially after going down two sets.

“I think we were a little timid in the first set,” said Mercy junior setter Campbell Flynn, who is committed to Nebraska. “It was our first time actually being in the Finals, so we were all a little nervous. But I think we stayed composed later in the set, and also kept rallies alive.”

Flynn put on a masterclass in game management, finishing with 41 assists, but doing so much more than that.

“Campbell Flynn took over the match,” Northern coach Valerie Lurye said. “We put a lot of our gameplan to making sure (Flynn) couldn’t score, and forcing her to do things like setting other kids. And the other kids showed up. … We forced her to have to do something different, which is what we wanted to do. We did really well Set 2, then Set 3 and 4 she caught on. She’s going to Nebraska for a simple reason, and that’s because she’s able to be someone who takes over the match and understands, ‘Hey, I can’t dump the ball right now. I have other people I have to go to.’ Her movement of the ball is what really threw us off our gameplan.”

The biggest beneficiary of Campbell’s ball movement was freshman Kate Kalczynski, who finished the match with a game-high 25 kills. Five of those kills came during the fifth set.

FHN’s Madalin Hersman (6) and Flynn meet at the net. “Kate, she played amazing today,” Flynn said. “I literally just had to set her the ball and she got kills. I’m so proud of her. She’s only a freshman, but she played a big role. I was just so beyond proud of her.”

Cree Hollier added 10 kills for Mercy, while Angie Butler – playing with a torn meniscus suffered over the summer – had seven kills and 22 digs. One of Butler’s kills came off a wild scramble late in the fourth set and gave her team a 20-18 lead. It was the first bit of distance Mercy was able to create in what had been a back-and-forth set – which the Marlins went on to win.

Vogel said her team started to play like it had nothing to lose after the first two sets, and that flurry certainly backed up that assertion.

The change in attitude and energy didn’t go unnoticed on the other side of the net.

“I would say they just really turned up their energy,” Northern senior Elana Erickson said. “The first two sets, they didn’t have a lot of energy and they couldn’t really serve and pass. They really turned it up though in the third, fourth and fifth set.”

Erickson, who will play at Western Michigan next year, finished with 22 kills and 27 digs to lead Northern (45-8-1). Kendall Hopewell added 16 kills, 11 digs and seven total blocks, while Lexie Stotenbur had 41 assists. 

Jillian Collins had 24 digs for Mercy, while Flynn added 15.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Farmington Hills Mercy surrounds Campbell Flynn (28) in celebration Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Marlins’ Kate Kalczynski (2) connects on a kill attempt with Kendall Hopewell (9) and Riley Loehfelm (16) putting up a block. (Below) FHN’s Madalin Hersman (6) and Flynn meet at the net. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Performance of the Week: Clarkston Everest Collegiate's Sarah Bradley

November 22, 2023

Sarah BradleySarah Bradley ♦ Clarkston Everest Collegiate
Junior ♦ Volleyball

The 6-0 outside hitter had 31 kills – tied for sixth-most in an MHSAA Final – with a .419 hitting percentage and 18 digs as Everest Collegiate came back from a two-set deficit to defeat No. 4-ranked Leland in five in Saturday’s Division 4 championship match at Kellogg Arena. The first Finals title in program history capped a tournament run that saw the Mountaineers also win their first Regional title. Everest entered the postseason ranked No. 10 in Division 4 and finished 32-4-2.

Bradley finished the season with 420 kills, adding 15 in a Quarterfinal win over No. 6 Marlette and 25 in a five-set Semifinal victory over top-ranked Adrian Lenawee Christian during which Everest also came back after losing the first two sets. Bradley was named to the Division 4 all-state first team after earning an honorable mention as a sophomore. She also plays basketball, softball and soccer for the Mountaineers and is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field as she begins contemplating her college possibilities.

@mhsaasports 🏐POW: Sarah Bradley #volleyball #bump #set #spike #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports 🏐POW: Sarah Bradley #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #gilmoregirls #instagram #culvers #thumbsup #smileyface #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

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Past 2023-24 Honorees

Nov. 17: Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10:
Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27:
Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20:
Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13:
Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5:
Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29:
MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22:
Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15:
Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

(Photos courtesy of the Clarkston Everest Collegiate athletic department.)