Novi senior - Volleyball
As the lone four-year varsity player on Class A champion Novi's roster, the 5-foot-11 Cummings has played a special role in helping the program rise to elite. Cummings – the Wildcats' right-side hitter and the state's Miss Volleyball Award runner-up this fall – finished a memorable high school career by leading Novi to a second straight Class A title last week to earn the Michigan National Guard's "Performance of the Week."
Cummings chipped in eight kills and nine digs in Tuesday's Quarterfinal win over Bloomfield Hills Marian, then led the team with 13 digs (to go with 15 kills) in the Semifinal sweep of Fenton. She finished with 10 kills, 14 digs and four blocks in a 3-1 win over Rockford in Saturday's Final; the Rams took only one of seven sets given up by Novi this season, and Cummings had four kills and all four of her blocks over the final two sets as the Wildcats pulled away. All three matches exemplified how Cummings has worked to become an all-around player, while remaining the threat who, as coach Jennifer Cottrill explained, doesn't allow teams to defend only one side of the court because if they do, "she will terminate" from the right.
In addition to the two Class A titles and 54-1 record this fall, Novi also finished Finals runner-up in 2014 and finished a combined 198-20 during Cummings' four years on varsity. She had 510 kills on a .346 attack percentage, plus 317 digs and 59 blocks this season, and finished with 1,042 kills, 183 blocks and 628 digs over her career. Cummings played club with five of this year's other Miss Volleyball finalists and finished runner-up for the award to Corunna's Meredith Norris, coming in second by only one vote. Also an academic all-state selection with a 3.8 grade-point average, Cummings will study psychology and continue her volleyball career next season at Valparaiso University.
Coach Jennifer Cottrill said: “The first couple of years I was here (2012 and 2013), we lost to Northville in the District Finals and never advanced past that in the postseason, and Ally was around for that – she’s the only one that was, and as we wanted to change that, she was the voice of change for us. … She’s always played so well in Battle Creek, all three of her years that we were there. Last night at our banquet, (I said) that’s where she eats pressure for breakfast. It doesn’t faze her. Other players, you see them run around the court, they’re nervous and do things that are uncharacteristic to the norm. But not Ally. She’s so solid in pressure situations.”
Performance Point: “My role was just to play consistently and help everyone to stay calm during stressful moments – be someone in pressure situations who could put the kill down, but mostly just to stay consistent the whole game. We have to make sure we stay in the game, don’t think too far ahead, and if we’re down, work point by point and get down the deficit. I think the whole time, for the most part, we were pretty calm during the games. They were all super-duper tight games, and we hadn’t had anything like that during the season.”
Lasting legacy: “I just hope they can think of me as a really good friend on the team. Not so much how I played during these years, just think ‘she’s such a good captain,’ that I had a good positive attitude and that I was able to be someone they can talk to. When we started this season, we all had roles as captains, and mine was to stay consistent and lead by example. Throughout the year, I think all of our captains accomplished what we set out to do.”
Quite a ride: “Playing on the team the last four years, I think I’ve really gotten better staying mentally strong during the game. There definitely were games I just played awful, but you’ve got to get back up, go to practice and get ready to get better again so the next game you can play better. … It feels so long ago; freshman year was the last year we lost in the first round, in Districts, and every year since we went to Battle Creek. We did a lot of team-building activities, working on our chemistry (after freshman year), and when we came in sophomore year, we were all already family on that team. … My senior year, I can definitely look back and think it was a successful one. It’s not really about me individually, but our team played so well together. For my senior year, to know the team played as well as possible, it’s an amazing feeling.”
It’s an honor: “I’m just so proud that I was able to come so close to winning (Miss Volleyball) against such amazing athletes in that kind of race. Being able to play with five of the other candidates, that makes the perspective bigger. They’re just great people and athletes, and to be able to come in second in that, it’s insane to me.”
Ready to help: “I’ve just always wanted to help people, and I know psychology, and working with kids, is something I wanted to do as well. I wanted to have a profession where I could help people out, and maybe with sports psychology so I can continue in the athletic area working with kids and athletic people. Growing up, you should always have a good support system, because that’s how you’ll act the rest of your life – how you’re taught as a kid. I want to have that positive influence.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Novi's Ally Cummings follows through on a kill attempt during Saturday's Class A Final win against Rockford. (Middle) Cummings takes her turn serving against the Rams.
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).