ADRIAN – Shopping. Dinner. Ice Cream.
That might be the secret formula that has the Adrian Madison volleyball program on the brink of winning its eighth consecutive league championship.
“The first week of the season, we went to Houghton Lake,” said Madison senior and four-year starter Jillian Kendrick. “We stayed there three or four days in a house. As a team, we went shopping and were together all the time. That was a really good time for us. We bonded.
“Now, we all kind of hang out outside of practice. We just find little ways, here and there, go to dinner or get ice cream. We find ways to stay together.”
That trip to Houghton Lake, which included a volleyball tournament, was the springboard to another great season for Heather Lanning’s Trojans. Madison is 36-8-3 overall heading into the Lenawee County Athletic Association jamboree Tuesday. The Trojans are 11-0 in conference play and can wrap up the league title with two victories.
League titles have become the norm for Madison. The Trojans won the last seven Tri-County Conference championships – with Lanning, who took over in 2021, the program’s third coach during the run – going undefeated in league play several of those years. This fall, however, Madison moved to the LCAA, a larger conference in southeast Michigan.
“It’s a very tough volleyball league,” Lanning said. “A lot of our competition has been tough. We play Clinton, Onsted, and Dundee Tuesday, which are three of the toughest teams. They’ve taken a set from us every time we’ve played them. Clinton beat us in a tournament.
“We knew this year was going to be difficult, but we have buckled down the last few weeks. Our No. 1 goal was to win the LCAA. We are close to that.”
Lanning said the difference in the leagues is the consistent intensity.
“The intensity is high,” she said. “I thought we were going to be good with so many returning players, but I did not necessarily expect us to be 11-0. This is what we’ve been striving for.”
Lanning is a Britton graduate in Lenawee County who got the coaching bug from her dad, former Britton football coach and athletic director Randy Salisbury. She started her coaching career as a middle school coach at Britton and moved up. She became the Madison junior varsity coach while the varsity was in the middle of the streak of winning TCC titles. When the previous varsity coach, Kelsey Cortright, stepped down due to a job shift, Lanning was named the head coach.
The league championships have continued.
“She’s great,” Kendrick said. “I like a coach that is about volleyball and helps you improve in volleyball but also makes it fun. We can have a serious practice but laugh and enjoy our time. She is focused on team bonding a lot and being one as a team.”
Lanning said she’s not afraid to have a little fun at practice.
“I like to laugh,” she said. “I like to have fun. If they are not having fun, it’s not worth it to me. I want to make sure the girls are having fun.”
The Trojans can be disciplined, too.
“We have a lot of dedicated players,” Lanning said. “We work hard in the offseason and all summer long. They know what the expectations are and the goals. We start young and we have a lot of girls who play club, who just love the sport of volleyball. Most of my players on the varsity team don’t just pick up a ball once a year during the season. They play year-round.”
Madison has eight returning seniors, including Kendrick, who recently recorded assist No. 3,000 in her career.
“A lot of people get 2,000 assists in a career, but 3,000 is a pretty big deal,” Lanning said.
Kendrick is a leader on and off the court, Lanning said.
“She’s been captain on the court for two years,” she said. “She brings the team together. She boosts confidence in the team and helps the younger girls along. She has a heart of gold.”
In addition to bringing back eight seniors, Lanning also brought up freshman Lilly Pharion and sophomore Kianna McKinney to the team.
“Jillian spends time with them,” Lanning said. “All of the girls do.”
Kendrick said she wants the younger players to be comfortable on the team.
“I know when I was a freshman, I was shy and scared,” she said. “It was intimidating. I try and put more thought into making them feel welcome and more confident.”
Seniors like Veronica Flores, Courtney Gauna, Tatum Wilson, and Caylan Sower have made huge impacts on the team this year as well.
“Tatum is in the top four in kills in the county. Veronica and Caylan dominate in the back. Kianna is a defensive specialist who reads the floor well. We have weapons,” Lanning said. “I knew going into the season we had something special, but it's still tough to keep it going. We didn’t know exactly what to expect from the LCAA.”
Kendrick said the team just keeps staying together and improving.
“We definitely knew the competition was going to be good, and it would be a challenge,” she said. “We just go into every game wanting to win and maintain that mindset. We like the challenge.”
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 Jillian Kendrick (4) lines up to pass during a match this season. (Middle) Coach Heather Lanning took over the program in 2021 and has continued the varsity’s league title run. (Below) Kendrick celebrates her 3,000th career assist. (Top and middle photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne; below photo courtesy of the Madison athletic department.)
Sarah 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.
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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.)