Centreville, Mendon face tough regional volleyball tests
LAWTON — The Centreville and Mendon varsity volleyball teams are in different situations as they set their sights on regional play this week.
Centreville makes its first regional appearance since 1995 facing Kalamazoo Christian in Tuesday’s second semifinal at 7 p.m. The first Class C match at 5 p.m. features defending state champion Bronson against Bridgman. The winners advance to Thursday’s championship at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, No. 2-ranked Mendon battles longtime nemesis Battle Creek St. Philip in a Class D regional at Bellevue Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The first match pits Athens against St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran at 6 p.m.
The finals are Thursday at 7 p.m.
Class C Regional at Lawton
A rigorous regular-season schedule paid off last week for Centreville when the Lady Bulldogs bumped off No. 9-ranked Schoolcraft in four games in the district semifinals at White Pigeon.
Centreville went on to claim its first district title the following night with a three-game sweep of Decatur.
Lady Bulldogs’ coach Melissa Gales says her team matches up well with Kalamazoo Christian.
“We have film on them from a match earlier this season because we anticipated playing them in the postseason. They are always competitive with a nice big middle hitter, a good outside hitter and a little libero who covers the court well,” Gales said.
“We have to be able to catch them out of their system and capitalize on it. They have a senior middle hitter who puts up a big block. They have a freshman who starts at outside hitter so maybe we can attack and score some points off her.”
Gales says a big key will be how well her team does in serve-receive.
“If you can serve-receive well than I believe your offense will naturally happen,” Gales said.
Centreville is tested having faced much larger schools in various tournaments throughout the season, including wins over Charlotte, East Lansing and Olivet.
The Lady Bulldogs were third in the BCS League’s Blue Division.
“I think teams like Mendon and Bronson respect us more. Our girls believe now that they have the talent and work ethic to beat any team on a given night,” Gales said. “We don’t just have athletes anymore, but kids who are good volleyball players.”
Gales has been pleased with the senior leadership she has received out of Hannah Marchand (middle hitter) and Skyler DeMeyer (setter). They are the two lone seniors on the squad.
“Winning has always been important to the two of them and they have gotten everyone else to buy into what we are trying to do,” Gales said.
“Another big key is how everyone on this team has embraced their role. As long as we continue to do that we will be okay.”
Centreville got a big boost in the district final from Marchand, DeMeyer, along with sophomore hitter Samara Schlabach, and with junior Sara Lewis in the back row and at the service line.
It was Lewis who served 15 consecutive points to help Centreville close out the third game and the match against Decatur.
“Sarah is our quiet leader in the back row. She has a calming effect when we get into trouble back there,” Gales said.
Class D Regional at Bellevue
Mendon (40-8-6) is no stranger to regional competition having four consecutive regional titles.
Bill Trenary’s Lady Hornets have had their season ended the past two seasons by St. Philip, honorable mention in the final 2016 Michigan Intercollegiate Volleyball Coaches Association rankings, in the state quarterfinals.
“Battle Creek St. Philip is one of the most dangerous teams in Class D. They are real organized, efficient and don’t give you any free points. We expect it to be a great match,” Trenary said.
“Anyone willing to drive that far to Bellevue is going to see a good volleyball match.”
Mendon has competed in a couple of the same tournaments this season as St. Philip, but have not faced the Lady Tigers yet.
“We can let ourselves get caught up in playing the jersey,” said Trenary, referring to the mystique of facing St. Philip.
St. Philip won 10 consecutive Class D titles from 2005-2014 before finishing as state runner-up last year to perennial power Leland.
“We have to remember that our game is good and its getting better every day. You have to trust the player next to you. Our game is to play fast, make good choice and to remain cool,” Trenary said.
Mendon is led by seniors Megann Leighton (middle hitter), Kaley Smith (libero) and Cassie Plummer (setter).
“Our senior leadership has allowed us to help our youth play older than they really are,” Trenary said.
The other two seniors on the team making contributions are role players Nancy Steinacker (defensive specialist) and Alyssa Kramer (left-side hitter).
“Our entire team is playing well defensively right now, especially Kaley from the back row. Megann hits the ball harder than anyone in Class D,” Trenary said.
Mendon’s head coach points to Plummer’s play as being critical as well.
“Cassie is really pulling us into being a complete team. She is doing a great job of distributing the ball to give us a couple hitters who are big weapons when the opponent keys on Megann,” Trenary said.
Sophomore left-side hitters Hayley Kramer and Cierra Nightingale, along with freshman Hannah Duchene (middle hitter) have been a nice surprise as well for Mendon.
Battle Creek St. Philip is coached by Vicky Groat. The Lady Tigers are led by a pair of left-handed hitters at outside hitter and right-side hitter.
“Those two players give them (St. Philip) the ability to create different angles on their shots,” Trenary said.
“I am also really impressed by their libero who drops off the block and handles tip coverage well. They have the personnel to take away the tip which is a big part of our game. We have to find a way to combat that.”
Leighton leads Mendon in kills, Smith in digs and Plummer tops the team in assists. Trenary has also been impressed by Duchene’s effort at the service line.
“Hannah records an ace one out of every five serves. She has a powerful serve and Cassie is serving over 96 percent,” Trenary said.
Also playing a key role for Mendon are sophomore Amaijha Bailey and junior Abby Miller at defensive specialist. Bailey can also play left-side hitter.
Mendon finished second in the BCS League’s Blue Division. The Lady Hornets finished first at the St. Joseph County Tournament, Cassopolis Tournament, Coloma Invitational and earned second place at the prestigious Grand Rapids Calvin Christian Tournament.
Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.