St. Philip Adds to 'Tradition'

November 17, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – The Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball team rushed the Kellogg Arena floor Saturday just as it has many of the other 17 times the Tigers have won the MHSAA Class D championship.

There’s no reason to do differently. As the saying goes, winning doesn't graduate. And it surely doesn't get old. 

Beal City made it a little tougher than some others over the years. But like in all 72 of its wins this fall, St. Philip swept the Aggies to launch the latest celebration.

The Tigers finished this season with a 25-21, 25-15, and 25-18 victory to add another to their record championship total and pull it within one more of tying the longest volleyball title winning streak in MHSAA history.

“It’s seriously the same every time. We have the same excitement every time. It’s always special. We never get tired of it,” Tigers senior setter Lenae Lesiow said. “It’s obviously the best feeling in the world.

“It’s just tradition. We really know we have so many people supporting us. And we just want to make people proud, make ourselves proud, make our coach proud.”

Every team is different, and every coach is hesitant to compare them. But this Tigers team finished 73-2-1, setting a school record for wins and ranking as the 10th-most successful volleyball team in MHSAA history.

Beal City coach Kelly David, who has been immersed in Class D volleyball as both a player and now in her first season running the program, said this was, in her opinion, the best St. Philip team to come through.

And that made how her Aggies (45-11-1) hung close even more impressive.

Beal City was playing in its first MHSAA Final in any girls sport. Only three years ago, David was the setter as the Aggies made the Semifinals but lost to the Tigers in four games.

This time, Beal City played nearly point for point through the first and halfway into the second.

But eventually, St. Philip’s all-state hitting duo of senior Amanda McKinzie and junior Sierra Hubbard-Neil became the Aggies’ undoing.

McKinzie, named Miss Volleyball on Monday, finished with 19 kills, one short of making the MHSAA Finals record book. Hubbard-Neil, a sure contender for the statewide award next season, had 18 kills

She caught fire in the second game, while McKinzie unloaded powerful finishing shots in the third.

“They were close that whole first game, and I think we were a little bit nervous knowing, ‘Wow, they are so close,’” McKinzie said.

“We just had to relax and play our game,” Hubbard-Neil added. “When either of us as a hitter starts getting going, our setter will nail us. She just starts feeding us when we’re hot.”

Lesiow totaled 32 assists. McKinzie and senior Natalie Gallagher both had nine digs.

Beal City was led by junior middle Addie Schumacher, who had seven kills and five digs. Junior Melanie Schafer had six kills and nine digs, and senior Jade Kennedy had eight digs and 23 assists.

Kennedy and senior Monica David – the coach’s sister – were freshman call-ups for the 2009 Semifinal.

“Being freshmen, we were just part of the team and we got to cheer on our teammates,” Monica David said. “It was awesome coming back as a senior and being one of the leaders out there and being a big part of the team.”

And it couldn’t have hurt to be part of her sister’s first team as a coach.

 “I lucked out having a good group of girls to start with," Kelly David said. “It’s hard to believe we’re in the Finals my first year, and it’s a lot of fun. But it’s the girls, not me. It’s the girls that got here, and I’m just excited for them.”

Groat’s program has plenty of family ties as well. With eight MHSAA championships, she’s now just one short of tying the total of her mother Sheila Guerra, her predecessor who died in 2006.

Groat found a card earlier this week that she’d gotten from her mom the year before her death. On the back was written the number “8,” and she had no idea why but thought about that over the last few days. “Maybe she knew something back then that she’s trying to tell me,” Groat said.

Another title win next season would tie Marysville’s record streak from 1997-2004. But the Tigers will have to do it with a number of new contributors.

They’ll graduate seven from this team, including four-year players McKinzie and middle Casey Gallagher and three-year players Sam Ellis and Natalie Gallagher.

“They’re like family to me. I watched them grow from little awkward freshmen to fine young ladies as seniors, and in June when they graduate it’s going to be a sad day because we’ve spent a lot of time together,” Groat said. “They’re part of my life forever.” 

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek St. Philip celebrates briefly after a point on the way to celebrating another Class D championship. (Middle) Jaclyn Behnke (11) and Amanda McKinzie block a kill attempt by Beal City's Addie Schumacher.

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 have their sights 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).