BATTLE CREEK – A decade’s worth of team volleyball came to an end Saturday afternoon for eight North Branch seniors.
So while the Broncos had just won their second-straight Division 2 title, the tinge of sadness to the tears streaming down their faces was understandable.
“All of us started, a majority of us eight seniors started when we were 8 years old in North Branch volleyball club,” Broncos senior Alana Deshetsky said. “No one, pretty much, left until they were in high school and played one or two years at a different club. We were all trained here and all played with each other since we were 8, so I think we have a deeper connection than most other teams.
“We pulled up a picture this weekend from our first year, and pretty much all of us girls were in it. It was really sad to see girls that I’d played with forever, and I won’t play with again. Most teams end on a low, but when you end on a high, you want it to keep going.”
While they won’t get to keep things going after the 25-18, 25-14, 25-18 win against Grand Rapids West Catholic at Kellogg Arena, this group has left a legacy that will never be forgotten at a program that was already considered one of the state’s elite.
For the first time in program history, North Branch won back-to-back titles. That came after a runner-up finish in 2021, giving a class that had been major contributors since they were freshmen three Finals appearances in four years.
And, as freshman, they lost in five sets to the eventual Division 2 champion, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
“I think it was something (coach Jim Fish) definitely saw the potential in us,” senior libero Hailey Green said. “We were freshmen. In that game our freshmen year, we were just trying to hang with Notre Dame Prep. I think our junior year it kind of hit us. Like, ‘Oh, we’re in the state finals.’ It definitely hit us last year.”
Fish definitely saw it early. When they were eighth graders, Fish coached them in a summer tournament in Ohio. It was a tournament that featured a varsity and JV division, and for the first time in his career, Fish chose to coach the JV group.
“(People) said, ‘Why are you coaching them?’ And I said, ‘Because I know what we’re going to be doing,’” Fish said. “We’ve been working with this group for a long time. As good of players as they are, they’re nicer kids. They’re team academic all-state, individual academic all-state. Phenomenal kids in the community.”
North Branch (56-4-1) spent the entire season ranked No. 1 in Division 2, and Fish scheduled the best competition he could find throughout the state – and even in some adjoining states – to keep his group sharp.
It worked, as did playing with a target on their backs the entire season.
“These teams scouted us very hard all season long,” Deshetsky said. “Our last tournament, I think we looked around and there were five cameras on our court scouting us for the postseason. This postseason was very difficult, because teams knew us as much as they could have, inside and out. They knew what we would do, because when you’re at the top, you’re the target, and everyone was coming for us.”
North Branch defeated the No. 2 team Grand Rapids Christian in Thursday’s Semifinal, but didn’t let down at all in the Final.
Aubree Deshetsky led the North Branch attack against West Catholic with 14 kills, while Clara Gyomory had nine. Adrienne Greschaw had 31 assists. The Deshetsky sisters led the defense, as Aubree had 19 digs and Alana had 13.
Brooke Tietz had seven kills to lead West Catholic, while Emma Tuttle had six. Alivia Mott had 11 assists, while Amelia Gagnon had 12 digs and Grace Steiner had 10.
“It was a great match – North Branch is a super good volleyball club,” West Catholic coach Megan Eversman said. “I think our kids gave a fight as hard as they could fight against that team. I’m just really proud of all of their efforts that they had.”
While North Branch had loads of experience at Kellogg Arena, West Catholic (38-10-6) was making its first Finals appearance.
“I’m just really proud that our team could get here,” Tuttle said. “I think we worked really hard this season to get here, and for our last season, I’m really proud.”
PHOTOS (Top) North Branch players celebrate their repeat Division 2 title win at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Grand Rapids West Catholic's Mia Henne (4) sends a kill attempt into the block of Kaela Chingwa (10) and Clara Gyoromy (14). (Below) Adrienne Greschaw sets the Broncos' 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.)