The Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association has announced its finalists for this season's Miss Volleyball award, which will be given to a senior during the week of the MHSAA Finals, beginning Nov. 12.
This is the 11th year of the award. Farmington Hills Mercy's Maddy Doyle was the 2011 recipient.
The following finalist bios are courtesy of the association's web site, MIVCA.net.
Tori Blake, 6-3, middle blocker, Midland: Setting school records in solo blocks, assist blocks and totals blocks she was the focal point of Midland's Class A state championship last season. Also a standout in track and high jump, she has a 3.7 grade-point average. She has verbally committed to play at Wisconsin.
Abby Cole, 6-5, middle hitter, Grand Haven: A second-team all-stater as a junior and a third-team as a sophomore, she earned a spot on this year Under Armor All-American Watch List. She also played varsity basketball and has a 3.7 grade-point average. She is committed to play at Michigan.
Allie Havers, 6-5, middle blocker, Mattawan: A first-team all-stater as a junior and a second-team as a sophomore, she is equally good - if not better - at basketball. A first-team all stater two years straight in basketball, she is committed to play basketball for Nebraska.
Ellen Hays, 5-7, Libero, Temperance Bedford: A second-team all-stater as a junior and a third-team as a sophomore, while leading Bedford in digs for two years. She is committed to play at Toledo.
Mackie House, 5-5, Libero, East Grand Rapids: Playing varsity for three years, she has been captain for two straight years. Miami (Ohio) and Michigan State are possible landing spots for her talents, she has a 3.5 grade-point average.
Amanda McKinzie, 6-0, outside hitter, Battle Creek St. Philip: She is a two-time first team all-stater and all-city player. A league MVP and a three-time all league, she has been on varsity all four years. She maintains a 3.87 grade-point average, and plans to attend Virginia Tech.
Leah Perri, 5-11, Middle blocker, Gull Lake: A first-team all-stater, she helped Gull Lake to a 2011 SMAC Conference Championship and 2011 Class A quarterfinals (MHSAA Regional & District Champions). She has recorded 192 aces, 1,223 digs and 321 blocks to date. She holds a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to attend Clemson.
Chloe Reinig, 6-4, outside hitter, South Lyon: A first team all-state, all-area (Player of the Year), all-county dream team, all-conference, all-tournament team and team MVP. As a freshman, she led Marian to a State Championship. She holds a 3.7 grade-point average and has committed to Michigan State.
Hope Rillema, 5-9, outside hitter, Whitehall: A first team all-stater last season, she helped Whitehall to a conference championship. She is team captain, a member of the national honor society, while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average. She has committed to Morehead State.
Katie Schau, 5-9, setter, Gull Lake: A first team all-stater last season, as a junior she helped Gull Lake to two conference championships. She was first team all conference three years in a row. She is a member of the National Honor Society, maintaining a 4.1 grade-point average. She has committed to Minnesota.
PHOTO: Battle Creek St. Philip's Amanda McKinzie powers the ball past two Crystal Falls Forest Park blockers during last season's Class D Semifinals at Western Michigan University. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)
Cadillac’s girls volleyball team is quite accustomed to getting flack from opposing teams’ student sections about their socks.
That’s not likely to continue much longer though, thanks to the Vikings’ performance on the court and major college teams becoming similarly equipped.
And their new warm-up shirts tell it all.
“My team has always worn knee socks,” said 23-year veteran Cadillac coach Michelle Brines. “So people will make fun of the team, or they’ll cheer ‘put your socks down’ and this kind of thing.
“This year we finally got shirts saying ‘Fear the Socks,’” she continued. “The knee socks were in back in the day, and we’ve always worn them.”
Now college powerhouse clubs like Texas and Nebraska wear knee socks. The Cornhuskers just went back to them last season — a year calumniating with an appearance in the national championship match. Nebraska and Texas regularly make runs to and beyond the NCAA Elite Eight.
Under Brines, Cadillac too is used to deep postseason runs including six MHSAA Semifinal appearances. The Vikings made their first appearance in the Division 2 Final last November, falling to North Branch.
Cadillac is off to a 17-3-2 start this fall preparing for Division 1 competition, as they moved into that division for this season. The Vikings haver their sites on another Big North Conference championship too as they prepare for District play in Grand Haven at the end of October. Cadillac is 4-1 in league play.
The Vikings have been led again this year by all-state middle hitter Carissa Musta. The 6-foot-4 senior is handling the pressure well. Teams celebrating a block of Musta’s hit are quickly shaken off, according to Brines.
“It’s got to be tough when somebody gets all crazy because they just blocked you, but Carissa is very composed,” Brines said. “She never comes off the floor.
“She’s pretty darn good in the back row,” Brines continued. “I am very impressed with her growth and composure.”
Musta topped the 1,000-kill mark earlier this season and became the school’s career leader in blocks this week in a three-set win over Petoskey.
Senior Makenzie Johns, a 6-1 outside hitter, is also an offensive powerhouse for the Vikings. Senior setter Cassie Jenema comes through regularly with kills in addition to her strong defense and serving.
“We have 11 players on our team, and they all play an important role,” Brines noted. “Even though we have a few that really, really stand out, we are not going to be successful if we’re not all doing our job.”
The Vikings also regularly feature three sophomores: Ari Bryant, Grace Zubak and Sophia Clough. All three were on the freshman team last year because of the team’s depth.
Cadillac shared the Big North championship last year with Traverse City Central. They both suffered home losses to each other but picked up road wins. That trend has continued this year as Central handed Cadillac its lone league loss in five sets on the Vikings’ court. They will play again Oct. 4 in Traverse City.
Brines is pleased with her team’s progress at midseason. The Vikings host Alpena on Wednesday and then battle in the Portage Invitational.
“I have never had a season moving people around as much as I have,” Brines said. “I expect to see a lot of growth out of my team as we go into the second half of the season.”
Brines hopes the Vikings will make a run to the Final again this fall so she can become accustomed to a new routine.
“We finally broke through and won that (Friday Semifinal) night game and got to play the next day, which had never happened,” Brines recalled. “I didn’t really know what to do because usually I was going out for dinner with my team because we lost.”
The knee socks are the Vikings' signature also at the freshman and junior varsity levels. “We have all of our levels wear them — it is kind of our thing,” Brines pointed out. “When we walk in we have knee socks, people know we’re Cadillac.
“It’s kind of fun,” she continued. “I am old school.”
Crew socks are allowed in practice, however. Brines and the Vikings seriously considered getting away from their long-standing tradition.
“I used to make them wear them in practice,” Brines said. “One of my players that went on to coach some college and be a head coach herself said ‘Coach, you can’t do (stop wearing them) because that’s what you kind of always done and nobody else wears knee socks.’”
A spokesperson for Nebraska said there’s no real reason Nebraska went back to wearing long socks beyond player preference, and that it seems like that trend is coming back in volleyball.
“Very cool,” Brines said with a smile when she learned of the Cornhuskers response. “So basically, we never went out of style.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Cadillac's McKenzie Johns unloads on an attempt during a match. (Middle) Cassie Jenema sets for a teammate during a match. (Below) Ari Bryant keeps the ball in play. (Photos by Marc Vieau/Cadillac News).