BATTLE CREEK – With the biggest serves of her volleyball career in front of her Saturday, Sarah Bradley did what she always does – took a deep breath and came through for Clarkston Everest Collegiate.
The junior served out the final three points of the Division 4 championship match, including a match-point ace to give the Moutaineers a five-set victory and their first Finals title.
“I believe very much in taking a deep breath when I’m serving and zoning everything out,” Bradley said. “In my head, I’m like, ‘All for you, God. All for you.’ Then I take a deep breath and I serve. Every single time. So I was very confident, and I went out there and did it.”
Bradley’s final ace put an exclamation point on an improbable comeback, as Everest trailed 2 sets to none, and 10-3 in the fifth before winning 24-26, 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-13.
It also capped off a historic season for the 10th-ranked Moutaineers, who hadn’t won a Regional title prior to this season, let alone compete in Kellogg Arena. They more than made their mark in their first trip, with a pair of 0-2 comebacks, including a Semifinal win Friday over top-ranked Adrian Lenawee Christian.
“I’m blown away by these girls,” first-year Everest coach Danielle Walker said. “To come back two days in a row from two sets down. It’s just amazing.”
Playing five sets twice certainly wasn’t the plan for the Moutaineers, but they didn’t shrink in the moment despite having never been on this stage.
“We knew we had done it before, we knew it’s been done in the state Finals before, and we trust in ourselves,” said junior Madelyn Krappmann. “We trust in our ability as a team and in each other. We know our strengths, we know our weaknesses and we know how to adapt to the other team’s strengths and weaknesses. We really just dug in, took a deep breath and said, ‘All right, we did it yesterday, we can do it today.’ And that’s what we did.”
It looked early in the fifth set that the rally in sets 3 and 4 may have been for naught. Leland jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead and had stretched it to 10-3 before Everest was able to find its way back in.
The Comets took a 13-11 lead when Kelsey Allen and Abby Hicks teamed up for a block of Bradley. She came back immediately with a kill, however, and then served out the match.
“Honestly, it got me even more motivated,” Bradley said. “They blocked me, but I just kept going. I believe in myself, and I trust myself to get over it. Me and (junior setter Erica Walker) talked about what we were going to do different. It just all fit together. I got out there with all the confidence I can, because that’s how I know I can play my best.”
Bradley finished with a match-high 31 kills, tied for sixth all-time in a Finals match. Walker finished with 57 assists, tied for second all-time. The 64 team kills for the Mountaineers (32-4-2) are tied for fourth all-time.
“My little thing is, I want to succeed so my hitters can succeed,” said Walker, who didn’t start playing volleyball for Everest until this season, and was also a Finals qualifier in cross country. “I want them to have the spotlight, and in order to do that, I have to have good sets. I play with three of the best hitters that I’ve ever seen. To be able to set them up and see them succeed makes me so happy.”
While this weekend served as an introduction to the rest of the state for Everest – the Mountaineers are set to bring back all six starters in 2024 and graduate one senior – it was goodbye from a legend on the other side.
Leland coach Laurie Glass, who has amassed more than 1,100 wins and three Finals titles in her 29 years leading the Comets, announced after the match that it was her last, and that assistant Travis Baker would be taking over.
“I’ve known all along that I wanted to see this group through and be there with them in this moment,” she said. “I’m proud to be from Leland. I’m proud to have coached at Leland, and I couldn’t have gone out in a better way. I wanted the season to be about them, 100 percent. I didn’t want to have big farewells and have a farewell tour of Laurie Glass’ coaching career. I wanted them to have their season. It’s time. It’s time to move on and pass the torch to Travis Baker, who really is the reason this season has gone as well as it has.”
The Comets finished Glass’ final season 41-17-2, and did so fielding a team of just seven players, five of whom were seniors.
While they didn’t know Glass was stepping down until after the match, they very nearly sent her out with a fourth title. Getting to raise a runner-up trophy wasn’t a bad way to go out, though.
“There’s a lot of teams out there that would give their eye teeth to have this moment, even if they were crying,” Glass said. “There were only two teams left in the state, and we were one of them. I don’t think that’s a horrible thing.”
Fiona Moord led Leland with 17 kills, while Shelby Plamondon and Allen both had 12. Olive Ryder had 10 kills and 21 digs, Hicks had 45 assists and Mallory Lowe had 18 digs.
Krappman had 20 kills for Everest, while Addison Pearce added 11. Krappman and Bradley both had 18 digs, while Samantha Pietras had 15.
PHOTOS (Top) Clarkton Everest Collegiate’s Sarah Bradley takes a big swing on a kill attempt during Saturday’s Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Mountaineers’ Madelyn Krappmann sends a kill attempt toward a pair of Leland blockers. (Below) Everest sets up its offense. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.)