St. Mary Sends Tuller Out as Champ

November 22, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

BATTLE CREEK – Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central wasn’t always the best team in Class C this season.

Longtime coach Diane Tuller wasn’t sure at the start of this fall if these Kestrels had “what it took” to win the school’s fifth MHSAA championship and second in three seasons.

But she never told them that. Every time St. Mary stepped on the court this season, Tuller always told her players they were the best – and in the end, it proved true again.

The Kestrels dropped the first set of Saturday’s Class C Final to second-ranked Schoolcraft, 25-23, but won the next three 29-27, 25-20, 25-22, to defend their top ranking and send Tuller into retirement with one more title.

“There’s no words to describe how much it means for us to leave her with something – her last state championship, for us to be the last team she gets to coach – you’ll never find another coach like her,” St. Mary senior Cassandra Haut said, “and I know we’re all honored to be able to play for her.

“She tells us all the time we’re the best team in the state, and I think even if it wasn’t (true) she knows in our heads coming from her that means more than anything and gets us ready to play every time we step on the court.”

The Kestrels finished this fall 45-8-2, Class C champions for the third time in five seasons after making the Quarterfinals in Class B a year ago.

Tuller will retire from coaching having led St. Mary to all five of its MHSAA titles and 595 wins over 17 seasons (with 188 losses and 51 ties).

She had a great starting point for her final season in a strong senior class including Haut, a 6-foot-2 middle who was a finalist for the Miss Volleyball award and will play collegiately at Eastern Michigan University.

“They’re a great team and improved every single time they stepped on the court. That’s all I ever ask of anybody,” Tuller said. “It’s not so much the state championship that means a lot to me now, but the fact that at the beginning of the season I wasn’t sure this team had what it took to get there. They’ve been improving, working hard, doing everything I asked them. I get a little screamy sometimes, but they put up with me, worked really hard. They did it.”

St. Mary gave up only two sets in eight tournament victories – the first to Ottawa Lake Whiteford in the District opener, and the last to Schoolcraft, which led by as many as five points during the first set and also in the second and as late as 23-22 before the Kestrels came back to finish on a 7-4 run.

Haut and her teammates expected the Schoolcraft surge – the Eagles had dropped their first two Semifinal sets to Roscommon before coming back.

St. Mary never trailed in winning the third set, and came back from six down in the fourth to finish its run.

“The momentum just kept changing. We played chaotically a little bit in Game 2, and there were moments of it in Game 3,” Schoolcraft coach Erin Onken said. “But I was proud of how we did fight back, even though we had those moments.”

Haut finished with 23 kills – tied for 13th most in an MHSAA Final during the rally scoring era beginning in 2004-05 – and senior Sydney McGinn’s 48 assists tied for sixth-most in Finals history.

Senior Marianne Douglas capped her all-state career with 17 kills and 14 digs, and senior setter Sarah Wisser had 44 assists as Schoolcraft made its second championship game appearance and first since winning Class C in 2008.

The Eagles finished 46-11-1, and Onken said she expected her team to make this run. “I said if you’re going to go down, write a story, make it awesome, show people how good you are,” she added. “I think we can walk away happy; I think our fans can walk away happy.”

St. Mary’s finish seemed a little destined as well, even if that’s not quite how Tuller would describe her final team’s effort.

“I don’t know if ‘destined’ is the right word. But they were determined and disciplined in what they had to do this year,” she said. “It’s all on them.”

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Top) Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central coach Diane Tuller holds up the MHSAA championship trophy to her team. (Middle) St. Mary setter Sydney McGinn moves the ball to a teammate while Schoolcraft prepares to block. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.) 


SCHOOLCRAFT PREVAILS IN FIRST SET - Schoolcraft made some nice defensive plays pay off for set point in the first against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
BLOCKING FOR A TITLE - On match point, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central blocks the Schoolcraft attack.
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Fear the Socks: Cadillac Volleyball Success Never Out of Style

By Tom Spencer
Special for

September 22, 2023

Cadillac’s girls volleyball team is quite accustomed to getting flack from opposing teams’ student sections about their socks.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThat’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.

Cassie Jenema sets for a teammate during a match. 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.”

Ari Bryant keeps the ball in play.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 SpencerTom 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).