Preview: Contenders Converging at Kellogg to Complete Storybook Seasons

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

November 15, 2023

This weekend’s Girls Volleyball Semifinals and Finals at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena have plenty of storylines for fans to follow – and almost assuredly won’t include a repeat of the snowstorm that blanketed last season’s championship rounds.

Six teams who braved the 2022 blizzard will be back this weekend, and among those six are four of the nine teams playing in pursuit of a first MHSAA Finals championship in this sport.

Reigning Division 2 champion North Branch will be back with almost the same lineup, joined by two more top-ranked teams – Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in Division 3 and Adrian Lenawee Christian in Division 4. Last season’s Division 1 runner-up Northville also is returning, along with 2022 Division 3 runner-up Kalamazoo Christian.

Four of this season’s 10 Miss Volleyball Award finalists will close the season at Kellogg, as will at least a few of the strongest contenders for the 2024 award.

Action begins Thursday with Division 2 and 3 Semifinals, with Divisions 1 and 4 on Friday and all four title matches Saturday. 

All 12 matches will be broadcast on and (audio) Find more information, including how to purchase tickets, on the Volleyball page.

This weekend’s schedule:

Division 1 – Friday
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern vs. Northville, 4:30 p.m.
Clarkston vs. Farmington Hills Mercy, 6:30 p.m.

Division 2 - Thursday
Milan vs. Grand Rapids West Catholic, 4:30 p.m.
North Branch vs. Grand Rapids Christian, 6:30 p.m.

Division 3 – Thursday
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central vs. Kalamazoo Christian, Noon
Cass City vs. Traverse City St. Francis, 2 p.m.

Division 4 – Friday
Adrian Lenawee Christian vs. Clarkston Everest Collegiate, Noon
Leland vs. Crystal Falls Forest Park, 2 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1, Noon 
Division 2, 2:30 p.m. 
Division 3, 4:30 p.m.
Division 4, 10 a.m.

Below is a glance at contenders in each division. (Statistics are through Regional Finals unless noted.)

Division 1

 34-3, No. 3
Coach: Ali Smith, third season (106-23-3)
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Cayla Cogan, 5-10 sr. OH (314 kills, .305 hitting %); Marlie Smith, 5-10 fr. OPP/S (310 kills, 255 assists, 69 aces, 268 digs); Emery Kuebler, 5-6 sr. S (756 assists).  
Finals forecast: Clarkston is headed back to the Semifinals for the second time in four seasons after most recently making the trip in 2020, and the Wolves’ only losses this fall were to No. 2 Northville, No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Marian, and honorable mention Farmington Hills Mercy – their Semifinal opponent. Clarkston defeated Mercy twice as well, and lost only 15 games all season. Kuebler made the Division 1 all-state second team last season and sets to five hitters with at least 100 kills this fall. Cogan was a Miss Volleyball Award finalist and has committed to George Washington University, and senior libero Kiley Gallagher (400 digs, 128 assists, 52 aces) has signed with Oakland.

 30-15-3, honorable mention
Coach: Loretta Vogel, 15th season (record N/A)
League finish: Third in Detroit Catholic High School League Central
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2019, Class A runner-up 2010.
Players to watch: Kate Kalczynski, 5-11 fr. OH (427 kills, 63 aces, 243 digs); Cree Hollier, 5-9 soph. MH (204 kills, .301 hitting %, 54 blocks); Campbell Flynn, 6-3 jr. S (466 assists, 107 kills, .432 hitting %).
Finals forecast: After splitting four regular-season matches with rival Marian, Mercy swept their Quarterfinal matchup to return to the Semifinals for the first time since the championship season of 2019. And the Marlins may just be getting started again, with only two seniors on the roster but three sophomores in the starting lineup. Flynn made the all-state first team last season and already has committed to national power Nebraska. Sophomore Maya Zarow entered the week with the second-most kills on the team at 212, with lone senior starter Angie Butler (163 kills, 200 digs) also in that mix. Vogel is in her 44th season total of coaching high school volleyball and has more than 1,100 victories.

 44-7-1, No. 5
Coach: Valerie Lurye, first season (20-2)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2002), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Elana Erickson, 5-10 sr. OH (626 kills, 67 aces, 463 digs); Kendall Hopewell, 6-1 sr. MB (356 kills, .340 hitting %, 66 blocks); Lexie Stotenbur, 5-10 soph. S (1,351 assists, 51 aces, 299 digs).
Finals forecast: Forest Hills Northern is making a repeat trip to Kellogg Arena after falling to eventual champion Marian in last year’s Semifinal. The Huskies graduated a Miss Volleyball finalist but return four starters from that lineup, including all-state second-teamers Erickson and Hopewell – Erickson was a Miss Volleyball finalist this fall and will continue at Western Michigan. FHN is 15-1 over its last 16 matches, the lone loss to Marian, and the Huskies avenged their two regular-season defeats to top-ranked Hudsonville with a 3-1 Regional Semifinal victory. They followed that with wins over No. 8 Byron Center and honorable mention Grand Haven to advance to this weekend.

 49-2, No. 2
Coach: Sarah Lindstom, third season (145-11)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West and overall
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2022.
Players to watch: Ella Craggs, 5-9 jr. S (1,116 assists, 61 blocks); Molly Reck, 5-10 jr. OH (453 kills); Avry Nelson, 6-3 sr. MB (314 kills, .352 hitting %, 93 blocks).
Finals forecast: Northville also graduated a Miss Volleyball finalist from last season’s team, but has five starters back after winning the first set before falling to Marian in four in the championship match. The only losses this season were to top-ranked Hudsonville and No. 7 Rockford, and Northville also defeated the Rams, and Marian, and downed No. 9 Temperance Bedford and honorable mentions Saline and South Lyon East on the way to Battle Creek. Craggs made the all-state second team and Nelson made the third last season, and several players have committed to play college volleyball including senior defensive specialist Ashlee Gnau, who has signed with Syracuse, and Craggs who has committed to Illinois State. Junior Mallory Reck is another major offensive contributor with 380 kills entering this week.

Division 2

 35-12-1, No. 2
Coach: Amy Huisken, second season (record N/A)
League finish: Fourth in O-K White
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2020, 2019 and 2018.
Players to watch: Grace Goodyke, 6-0 fr. OH (291 kills); Hanna Bredeweg, 5-8 sr. S/RH (149 kills, 394 assists, 53 blocks, 242 digs); Grace Spoelma, 5-7 sr. S/RH (148 kills, 402 assists). (Statistics include Quarterfinal.)
Finals forecast: The Eagles are headed back to the Semifinals after a season away, and Bredeweg and Spoelma also were top contributors as sophomores on the 2021 Semifinals team. Grand Rapids Christian defeated No. 4 Lake Odessa Lakewood and honorable mention Ada Forest Hills Eastern on the way to Kellogg this time. Six hitters have at least 100 kills, and junior libero Madison Peal has totaled 417 digs this fall.

 37-9-6, unranked
Coach: Megan Eversman, ninth season (259-130-19)
League finish: Second in O-K Blue
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Emma Tuttle, 5-11 sr. OH (378 kills, 62 blocks, 501 digs); Brooke Tietz, 6-0 sr. MB (417 kills, 128 blocks, 189 digs); Emma Arsulowicz, 5-4 jr. S (475 assists, 218 digs).
Finals forecast: West Catholic has followed up its first Regional championship won last season with its first trip to the Semifinals and is riding a 20-match winning streak. The Falcons have lost only seven sets during the 20-match run, including two in defeating honorable mention Ludington 3-2 in the Quarterfinal. Tuttle and Tietz have been the lead hitters, but Arsulowicz is one of four juniors total in the starting lineup. Five hitters have at least 125 kills, with 6-1 junior middle Mia Henne another key contributor with 211 and a team-high 130 blocks entering the week.

 29-6-2, unranked
Coach: Makenna Slack, first season
League finish: Second in Huron League
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Courtney Nye, 5-7 sr. OH (352 kills, 260 digs); Malea Wourman, 5-7 jr. OH (294 kills, 206 digs); Madison Slack, 6-0 soph. S (864 assists, 235 digs).
Finals forecast: Makenna Slack was a four-year starter for Milan only a few seasons ago, graduating in 2020, and her first season leading the program has included the longest tournament run in Milan volleyball history. The Big Reds did reach the Regional Final last season, losing the Dearborn Divine Child, and followed up their first Regional title last week by defeating Divine Child in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. They’ve swept eight of their last nine opponents, and three of their six losses came to teams playing this weekend (Monroe St. Mary twice and Lenawee Christian). Nye and middle Maria Stines (113 kills) both start and with defensive specialist Hailey Knox are the team’s only seniors.

 53-4-1, No. 1
Coach: Jim Fish, 24th season (1,325-223-52)
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2022), five runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Adrienne Greschaw, 5-8 sr. S (1,216 assists); Hailey Green, 5-1 sr. L (481 digs, 60 aces); Clara Gyomory, 5-9 sr. RS (431 kills, .395 hitting %, 64 blocks).
Finals forecast: The reigning Division 2 champion, and 2021 runner-up, is absolutely loaded with five starters plus libero Green back from last season. Green and Greschaw were Miss Volleyball finalists this fall and joined by Gyomory on last year’s Division 2 all-state first team, while seniors Alana Deshetsky (445 kills, .301 hitting %, 89 aces) and Kaela Chingwa made the third team in 2022. Sophomore Aubree Deshetsky has been filling up the stat sheet too this season with 455 kills and 387 digs entering the week. The Broncos’ only losses were to Division 1 top-ranked Hudsonville, No. 4 Marian, Division 2 Division 5 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Chicago Marist, and they defeated No. 3 Marysville, No. 6 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and No. 7 Frankenmuth over their last three matches.

Clarkston's Rylee Hunt (11) prepares to put up a block at Macomb L'Anse Creuse North's Kate Schneider connects during their Division 1 Quarterfinal.

Division 3

 34-6-5, No. 10
Coach: Amy Cuthrell, eighth season (166-46-12)
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference West
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Shelby Ignash, 6-0 jr. M/DS (469 kills, 93 blocks, 334 digs); Kacee Gray, 5-7 jr. OH/DS (424 kills, 340 digs); Isabelle Phillips, 5-6 jr. S (968 assists, 58 aces).
Finals forecast: Four of six starters are back from the Cass City team that reached the Semifinals a year ago, with the three listed above joined by senior Josie Spencer – the only senior on the team. Ignash made the all-state first team last season, and Gray earned an honorable mention, and they’ve been the top hitters as the Red Hawks have put together a postseason run of four shutouts and a 3-1 win over No. 8 Saginaw Valley Lutheran in the Quarterfinal. Spencer (340 digs, 189 kills) remains a key part of the lineup. Cass City is 12-0-2 over its last 14 matches and had an early split this fall with Kalamazoo Christian.    

 41-6-3, No. 4
Coach: Carlie Southland, second season (79-12-6)
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2022, Lower Peninsula Class C-D runner-up 1976.
Players to watch: Holland DeVries, 5-9 sr. OH (343 kills, 82 aces, 390 digs); Makenna Ekkens, 5-6 sr. OH (352 kills, 93 aces, 509 digs); Lola Stecker, 5-6 sr. S (931 assists, 165 kills).
Finals forecast: Kalamazoo Christian is another repeat Semifinals qualifier and finished Division 3 runner-up last season, losing in four sets to Pewamo-Westphalia – which the Comets defeated Tuesday to advance this time. DeVries made the all-state second team and Ekkens made the third a year ago, and they are joined by three more returning starters from the 2022 championship match – Stecker, junior right-side hitter Annelise DeJong (247 kills) and senior middle Mackenzie Ash (161 kills). Kalamazoo Christian hasn’t lost a set over five postseason matches and has won 17 of its last 18 matches total.

 33-8-1, No. 1
Coach: Cassandra Haut, third season (109-25-1)
League finish: First in Huron League
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), four runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Madeline Dettling, 6-0 soph. OH (299 kills); Jessica Costlow, 5-11 jr. OH (408 kills, .353 hitting %, 496 digs); McKenna Payne, 5-7 jr. S (781 assists, 365 digs).
Finals forecast: SMCC has fallen to the eventual Division 3 champion the last two years, and after ending in the Quarterfinals a year ago is back at the Semifinals for the fourth time over the last five seasons. The Kestrels have swept all five of their playoff opponents, including No. 3 Plymouth Christian Academy on Tuesday, and seen most of the best in the state regardless of division with regular-season wins over Mercy, Milan, Marian, Lakewood and Bedford among others. Costlow and Payne made the all-state first team last season, and Dettling made the third team. They are joined in the starting lineup by three seniors who all had at least 120 kills entering the week. Payne has committed to sign with Utah, and Costlow has committed to Toledo.

 37-9-1, No. 5
Coach: Kathleen Nance, fifth season (140-67-7)
League finish: First in Lake Michigan Conference
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2012.
Players to watch: Reese Jones, 5-4 soph. S (704 assists, 74 aces, 294 digs); Garnet Mullet, 5-9 sr. OH (333 kills, 91 aces, 357 digs); Avery Nance, 5-4 jr. L (98 aces, 539 digs).
Finals forecast: St. Francis is returning to the Semifinals for the first time since 2018 after defeating No. 7 Calumet and honorable mention Shelby along the way. The Gladiators have won 16 of their last 17 matches, with a loss to Division 1 Traverse City Central the only one during that run. Avery Nance made the all-state third team last season and Mullet earned an honorable mention, and the latter is the team’s only senior as the roster is filled out by four juniors and seven sophomores. Sophomores Quinn Yenshaw (346 kills) and Claire Hurley (277) are two more key hitters, and junior Tessa Konas (504 assists) has led the attack as well. Kathleen Nance formerly coached Central for four seasons and was a two-time state champion player growing up in Oklahoma.

Division 4

 46-5-1, No. 1
Coach: Tenille Marowelli, first season (46-5-1)
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2004), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Gabby Bryja, 5-4 sr. S (1,326 assists, 69 aces, 435 digs); Sophia Samonek, 5-11 sr. MH (483 kills, .313 hitting %, 386 digs, 85 blocks); Hannah Baker, 5-11 sr. MH/OH (471 kills, .480 hitting %, 377 digs).
Finals forecast: After reaching the Quarterfinals the last two years, Lenawee Christian has advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since the 2005-06 winter season, a run that has included wins over No. 3 Hillsdale Academy and No. 7 Battle Creek St. Philip. The Cougars also defeated No. 2 Mendon during the regular season. Baker made the all-state first team last season, and Bryja made the second, and they join with Samonek and outside hitter Whitney Lilly (277 kills, 74 aces) to give Lenawee Christian four senior starters. Marowelli played at Lenawee Christian, graduating in 2010, and Spring Arbor before coaching in Indiana and then returning to eventually take over the program.

 30-4-2, No. 10
Coach: Danielle Walker, first season (30-4-2)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League Intersectional
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Sarah Bradley, 6-0 jr. OH (349 kills, .450 hitting %, 210 digs); Erica Walker, 5-6 jr. S/RS (541 assists, 155 digs); Madelyn Krappmann, 5-10 jr. OH (260 kills, .320 hitting %, 53 aces).
Finals forecast: Danielle Walker’s first season has turned into the best in program history as Everest has reached the Semifinals for the first time after also claiming its first Regional title. Krappmann and Bradley earned all-state honorable mentions a year ago and help pace a roster that has only one senior. The Mountaineers defeated No. 6 Marlette on Tuesday to advance and are 15-1-1 over their last 17 matches.  

 34-2, No. 9
Coach: Bobbie Jo Anderson, fourth season (86-36-9)
League finish: First in Skyline Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Ema Stepien, 5-8 OH sr. (288 kills, .400 hitting %, 98 aces); Elsie Williams, 5-5 soph. S/OH (410 assists); Ava Fischer, 5-6 soph. OH (237 kills, .350 hitting %, 67 aces, 222 digs).
Finals forecast: Forest Park is making a return trip to Battle Creek as well and has taken another big step with 12 more wins than a year ago. The entire starting lineup except for last season’s libero is back, and four seniors are among eight in the main playing group. Senior middle Leah Feldhausen (212 kills, .350 hitting %) is another key hitter, and senior Charlie Larson (373 assists, 52 aces) also directs the attack while junior Audrey Franz paced the defense with 400 digs entering the week. The Trojans’ only two losses were to Kingsford, a Division 2 District winner.

 40-16-2, No. 4
Coach: Laurie Glass, 29th season (1,123-362-102)
League finish: First in Northwest Conference
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), eight runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Fiona Moord, 6-2 sr. OH (509 kills, 117 aces, 247 digs); Olive Ryder, 5-8 sr. OH (249 kills, 103 aces, 426 digs); Kelsey Allen, 6-0 sr. MB (318 kills, 56 blocks).
Finals forecast: Leland may be few in number, with just seven players, but is high in experience with five seniors and strong at the net with senior Shelby Plamondon (250 kills) another 6-footer in the middle. Leland fell to eventual Division 4 champion Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in last season’s Quarterfinal, but avenged with a win over the No. 5 Irish on Tuesday – and seven of the team’s losses were to opponents ranked or earning honorable mentions in Divisions 1, 2 or 3. Moord made the all-state first team last season, and Allen and Ryder made the second team. Junior Abby Hicks directs the attack and had 1,172 assists entering the week, while senior libero Mallory Lowe had a team-high 444 digs and junior Kally Sluiter also is among four players with at least 240.

PHOTOS (Top) Adrienne Greschaw (1) sets the North Branch attack during its Quarterfinal win over Frankenmuth. (Middle) Clarkston's Rylee Hunt (11) prepares to put up a block as Macomb L'Anse Creuse North's Kate Schneider connects during their Division 1 Quarterfinal. (Photos by Terry Lyons.)

Performance of the Week: Clarkston Everest Collegiate's Sarah Bradley

November 22, 2023

Sarah BradleySarah 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.

@mhsaasports 🏐POW: Sarah Bradley #volleyball #bump #set #spike #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports 🏐POW: Sarah Bradley #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #gilmoregirls #instagram #culvers #thumbsup #smileyface #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

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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.)