By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Girls volleyball has seen its share of changes over more than four decades as an MHSAA sport – its season moving from winter to fall and the addition to rally scoring in 2005-06 surely would be counted as the most significant.
Along the way, it has become the most popular high school girls sport in the state in terms of participation, with more than 19,000 athletes taking part last season.
The legacy will continue later this season when the MHSAA crowns its 42nd class of champions in the sport. Here’s a look back at the first championship day in 1976, written by MHSAA historian Ron Pesch for a “Finals Flashbacks” published in the 2006 MHSAA Finals program:
The sport of volleyball was invented in 1895 at Springfield College in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Added to the Olympics in 1964, the international amateur athletic event exposed the power game to a broad audience.
In the winter of 1976, the MHSAA added volleyball to the array of championships sponsored by the organization. A total of 458 teams participated in the first volleyball tournament. Broken into three classifications, Class A contests were played on the campus of Schoolcraft College in Livonia, while Class B games were held at Read Field House at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Bay City’s Delta College played host to the Class C-D tournament.
Eight teams qualified for the finals in each classification. Quarterfinal, Semifinal and Final matches were played on the same day, made possible because games were timed during that first year.
Dearborn Fordson had won a non-MHSAA tournament in 1975, and led by tri-captains Lynn March, June Scott and Joan Ferguson, the Tractors earned the MHSAA’s first Class A title by disposing of Grosse Pointe North in the Semifinals, 15-6, 15-4. Fordson then knocked off previously unbeaten Ferndale in the Final, 15-13, 15-5 for the crown.
Parchment carried a nine-player roster, including five seniors, into the first Class B tournament. The Panthers thumped Sturgis, 15-0, 15-8 in the Semifinals, then downed Tecumseh, 15-8, 15-11, to finish the year with a 30-3 record.
Undefeated Flint Holy Rosary, led by coach Jo Lake, rolled to the 1976 Class C-D crown with a 14-5, 13-8 win over Kalamazoo Christian in the Final. The team snagged the Class D title the following year as well, establishing a winning streak of 92 straight matches.
PHOTO: Michigan high school volleyball teams compete during the early days of the sport in this state. (MHSAA file photo.)
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.)