BATTLE CREEK – Izzy Busignani spent most of the Division 1 Volleyball Final on Saturday smashing the ball through the court at Kellogg Arena.
But when it came time to close out Bloomfield Hills Marian’s third straight title, the sophomore went with finesse.
“I saw a triple block in front of me, and I saw that the defense was back on their heels, so I knew that if I tipped it short, it would either be out of system or it would go straight down,” Busignani said. “I was just kind of watching it and waiting to see what the result was.”
Busignani’s 27th kill on the day was a tip over the block that the Northville back line couldn’t control, ending a 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-11 victory for Marian.
The win avenged top-ranked Marian’s only loss of the season, and gave the program its fifth Finals title.
“The biggest thing we talked about is that this is our home court,” Marian coach Mayssa Cook said. “Yes, we were the home team on the scoreboard, but we’ve been here now, our third year in a row, so this is our home court, and we knew we had that advantage. We had the experience of playing on this stage, in this gym. We know the way it smells, it looks, it feels, all that stuff.”
That experience came through in the third set, when Northville (47-4) looked to be in command, taking a 19-12 lead. The Kalamazoo Christian student section – waiting for its team to play in the Division 3 Final – had even joined the smaller group of students from Northville to put some more energy behind the Mustangs.
But Marian (49-1) got its own boost from the Pewamo-Westphalia students section, and rattled off seven straight points – six on the serve of senior Lauren Heming – to put Northville on its heels. Not long after, a pair of kills from Busignani closed out a 25-22 set and gave Marian a 2-1 lead.
“That’s not the first time that’s happened,” Marian senior setter Ava Sarafa said of the student section invasions. “Last year we were staying at the same hotel and we had multiple schools come and watch us from the stands. I thought the Marian students did a really good job of being loud, but adding that student section on both sides upped the amount of momentum that each team had. It didn’t increase the pressure, but it also just lightens the vibe and makes you really pumped up. It also fueled us a lot, having that extra support on our side.”
From there, Marian would roll, dominating the fourth set on its way to the title.
“I think they got mad,” Northville coach Sarah Lindstrom said of Marian. “A team like that, when they’re angry, is a scary team. You just kind of saw them realize, ‘We’re not going to let Northville do this to us.’ That’s at least how it felt for us. You have to give kudos to Mayssa for controlling their emotion and realizing a team that can be down to a team as good as mine, to get that many points and come back, you have to give credit to them.”
Busignani’s 27 kills led the Marian attack, and she also added 20 digs, tied for the team lead with Heming, who added four aces. Schomer added 14 kills and 17 digs, while Sarafa had 45 assists and 10 digs, and Molly Banta had 14 digs and three aces.
“Kids that don’t normally make spectacular digs and defensive plays were making them,” Cook said. “It was so beautiful to finally see us play the kind of defense – and I won’t name what schools – but there’s many times this season I said, ‘So and so plays defense like that,’ or ‘Their program is playing defense consistently point for point, there’s no reason we’re not, other than we’re choosing not to.’ It was so beautiful to see all our hitters be huge contributors in set 3 and 4, and all our defenders be contributors. Every kid went on a serving run. More than any year, this has felt like a true team effort.”
The Marian defense struggled to solve Northville star hitter Abby Reck early in the match, and she still managed to finish with 21 kills. But Marian eventually found a way.
“They started scrapping, they got a closed block,” Reck said. “We were out of system a lot. They started serving super aggressive, so our pass faltered a little bit. As soon as that happened, they can set up and it’s pretty hard to hit around. They’re a great team.”
Reck added 19 digs and three aces for Northville, which was making its first Finals appearance. Avry Nelson had 12 kills and three blocks, Taryn Rice had 20 digs, and Greta McKee and Ashlee Gnau each had 13.
PHOTOS (Top) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Mckenzie Swanson (5) and Izzy Busignani (16) put up a block during the Mustangs’ Division 1 championship match win Saturday. (Middle) Northville’s Abby Reck (17) sends a kill attempt at Swanson and Ella Schomer (12). (Below) Marian celebrates its third-straight Finals victory.
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.)