Stephanie Toma (2) of Hazel Park and Ellen Guerra (5) of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep meet at the net during the second set of the MHSAA Class B Regional final played on Thursday Nov. 14, 2013 at Notre Dame Prep High School. Hazel Park lost to ND Prep 25-8, 25-6, 25-12. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
VOLLEYBALL: Prep advances with sweep of Hazel Park in regional WITH TOUT VIDEOS
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep teammates celebrate winning the MHSAA Class B Regional over Hazel Park in straight sets 25-8, 25-6, 25-12. The match was played on Thursday Nov. 14, 2013 at Notre Dame Prep High School. (Special to the Oakland Press/SIDNEY SWART)
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Dani McCormick (12) goes for the kill as Hazel Park’s Cheyanne Ferris (17) goes up for the block attempt during the first set of the MHSAA Class B Regional final played on Thursday Nov. 14, 2013 at Notre Dame Prep High School. ND Prep won the title in straight sets 25-8, 25-6, 25-12. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep teammates Gwen Keller (9) and Ellen Guerra (5) go for the block against Hazel Park’s Mackenzie McClellan (7) during the first set of the MHSAA Class B Regional final played on Thursday Nov. 14, 2013 at Notre Dame Prep High School. The Irish defeated the Vikings 25-8, 25-6, 25-12. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
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PONTIAC — After falling short in the Class B quarterfinals last season, the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball team will get another shot at the quarterfinals this year and look to make the most of it.
The Fighting Irish (59-2-1) assured their spot in the quarterfinals by sweeping Hazel Park in a regional final Thursday at Notre Dame Prep as the Fighting Irish started strong and held off some Vikings’ comeback attempts to earn the sweep (25-8, 25-6, 25-12).
Hazel Park fought back from a 17-4 deficit in the third game to close to within 19-10 and press closer to the Fighting Irish, but Notre Dame Prep held off the Vikings and will advance to the quarterfinals, which will be Tuesday at Notre Dame Prep.
“We’re excited,” Notre Dame Prep head coach Betty Wroubel said. “Both teams are going to play hard, and it’s going to be whoever’s on on that day.”
The Fighting Irish will face the same team it lost to last year in North Branch, which advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Armada, and Wroubel said if her team’s on, it will have as good of a chance as anybody.
Notre Dame Prep, which began the playoffs ranked No. 1, will hope to avenge its loss from last year and advance to the state semifinals in Battle Creek.
Hazel Park (17-12-2) made its biggest push in the third game Thursday as it fell behind early but continued to work hard and battle, as it pulled to within 18-9 despite being down 17-4 early on.
The Vikings got a kill from Cheyanne Ferris and aces from Courtney Coombs and Mackenzie McClellan to anchor their comeback run, but Notre Dame Prep finished the game with a kill from Erica Schwegman to win.
Hazel Park, which advanced to Class B regionals for the first time in more than 20 years, will lose nine seniors but remember an outstanding run that included a district title and a regional semifinal win against Detroit University Prep.
“This is a definitely a season to remember,” Hazel Park coach Sue Stuef said. “I’m so proud of my kids. … We’ve been working for this for a long time.”
Notre Dame Prep took an 18-6 lead in the first game on a kill by Dani McCormick and then sealed the set victory with a kill by Katherine Carlson.
The Fighting Irish got a kill and an ace from Carlson to build a 14-1 lead in the second game and survived a late 3-0 run by Hazel Park to win the set on a couple more Carlson kills.
The Fighting Irish grabbed a 2-1 early lead in the final game after a long rally resulted in their point, then used an Ellen Guerra kill later on to hold off the Vikings and eventually win the set.
Carlson tallied 15 kills to lead Notre Dame Prep, while McCormick added nine and Jenna Sassack had eight, while senior Stephanie Toma recorded 10 assists and Coombs added three kills.
“Our serving was not very strong,” Wroubel said. “(It’s) quite an achievement for a team that’s had quite a year.”
Even though Hazel Park fell short, it can think back on the successes of its season that included a district title after it fell short a year ago and a regional victory.
“About half-way through the game I said ‘go make some memories, guys,’” Stuef said. “’Go make some good plays for yourself, and make some memories’. … It’s a good accomplishment for us.”