Angela Ludlow & Lindsay Ross team up for the block for Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes in the win over Cabrini at Madonna University on Monday, October 28, 2013 (Special to The Oakland Press/CHRIS WALL)
VOLLEYBALL: Previewing the 2013 quarterfinals WITH TOUT VIDEOS
Auburn Hills Oakland Christian’s Katie Wilson (5) puts down a kill over the block attempt of Rochester Hills Lutheran High Northwest’s Emily Woodfin (6) and Katie Rasmussen (15) during the third set of the MHSAA Class C Pre-District match held on Monday Nov. 4, 2013 at Rochester Hills Lutheran High Northwest. Oakland Christian defeated host LHWN in straight sets 25-12, 25-21, 25-8. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Jenna Sassack (15) spikes the ball as Hazel Park’s Cheyanne Ferris (17) goes for the block 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)
Alannah Barash, Bloomfield Hills Marian, makes a dig during regional final action against Clarkston at Lake Orion High School Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (Special to The Oakland Press/LARRY McKEE)
One more step.
The postseason volleyball tournament has reached the quarterfinals and four teams will compete for the chance to reach the semifinals at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek on Tuesday.
Here is a preview of the four games taking place
Birmingham Marian vs. Romeo at Anchor Bay
The Mustangs enter a wide-open Class A quarterfinal as one of just four ranked teams remaining, and are the top ranked team left (No. 3).
Marian navigated through a tough regional by beating Birmingham Groves and Clarkston. The Mustangs will now meet upset-minded Romeo at 7 p.m. at Anchor Bay. Romeo is coming off beating defending Class A state champion, Macomb Dakota, in last week’s regional semifinal.
“We have not played Romeo this season, but they are a good team and with two great outside hitters,” Marian coach Angela Kalczynski said. “We have been focusing on taking care of our side of the court and doing what we do best. Clarkston was a great win for us and a confidence booster as we move into playing Romeo.”
Marian is seeking its first appearance in Battle Creek since winning the championship in 2010.
“We have had a very tough regular season which serves us best during this time of the year to be at our best and being ready to play against tough competition,” Kalczynski said of the key to Marian’s success this year. “We have won two big tournaments this season at the end of the year. Our goal has been to peak at the end of the year and we are right where we want to be.”
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep vs. North Branch at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
The Fighting Irish entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in Class B and they will now face third-ranked North Branch in Tuesday’s quarterfinal at home at 7 p.m.
“North Branch is a top notch team and they are among the elite programs in the state,” Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wroubel said. “They have beaten some excellent teams this season, and year-in and year-out they win over 60 matches and this season is no exception. (Coach James Fish) is a Hall of Fame coach and he has put together one of the best programs in the state. They have been in this position six out of the last eight years. North Branch has a lot of experience and success in this game probably more than most any other team in recent years. They will be well prepared.”
Both teams have been impressive in the postseason, as the Fighting Irish have yet to drop a set, while North Branch has lost just one.
“Going up against a team of North Branch’s caliber is always a daunting task. We are without a couple of players that could have played very important roles. North Branch is one of the top, if not the top, serving teams in the state so we will have to receive well in order to have any level of success,” Wroubel said. “They attack from all positions so our defense is going to have to step it up in order to slow down North Branch’s potent offense. North Branch has an excellent setter who is also very active in their offense so that adds another layer of coverage to their offense and their middles block a lot of balls so it will be tough to get the ball past them.”
Notre Dame Prep will have the luxury of playing at home in this game, but Wroubel doesn’t know if that is a good thing.
“I am not sure that playing at home is a big advantage,” she said. “Sometimes that bus time allows for a team to have some quiet time and focus on the game plan. This is our seventh trip to the quarterfinals and the only time that we have advanced was on the road.”
Notre Dame Prep is looking to make its first trip to Battle Creek since 2007, when it won the state championship.
Auburn Hills Oakland Christian vs. Ottawa Lake Whiteford at Whitmore Lake
Auburn Hills Oakland Christian makes a return trip to the quarterfinals on Tuesday when it faces Ottawa Lake Whiteford at 7 p.m. at Whitmore Lake.
The Lancers have been on a roll, sweeping every opponent in the postseason
“We are looking forward to the opportunity to play again and we will strive to do our best,” Auburn Hills Oakland Christian coach Priscilla Larned said of her team. “The girls are very excited about the opportunities ahead of us.”
Oakland Christian meets Ottawa Lake Whiteford in the only Class C quarterfinal that doesn’t feature a ranked team entering the postseason. Despite that, both teams are playing at their highest level, as Whiteford has dropped just one set in the postseason.
“We played Whiteford at the U-M Dearborn tournament in September, which is almost like a season ago. We lost in pool play to them and then played them in the finals and lost in three games,” Larned said of Whiteford. “They have very strong outside hitters and good middles also.”
A win on Tuesday would be a big breakthrough for Oakland Christian, which has been flying under the radar this season, despite its success a year ago.
“Last year none of our girls had played in the quarterfinals before and we were going against a team with lots of tournament experience and state championships in their history. We were nervous but we played hard and did not give up,” Larned said. “I have been reminded daily (this season) that our team is very confident and that they will work hard to reach their goals.”
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney at Mt. Morris
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes finds itself in very familiar territory on Tuesday.
The second-ranked Lakers meet Marine City Cardinal Mooney at 6 p.m. in the very same gymnasium it saw its season end last year.
WOLL made a run to the quarterfinals a year ago, losing to Beal City in Mt. Morris and coach Stephanie Swearingen hopes that experience carries her team this time around.
“We're feeling good about playing the quarterfinal match at Mt. Morris Junior High. The gym's circular shape can be a bit unusual, but luckily we won a tournament earlier this season in the facility, so we know we can make the needed adjustments. I have seven returning players from last year's team, so the seven girls remember the excitement that comes from the quarterfinals match,” Swearingen said. “We've discovered that with a full gym, communication becomes really difficult. We are working on our communication so we're all connected.”
The Lakers have swept all four postseason opponents entering this match while Cardinal Mooney is coming off a hard-fought, five-set win over Deckerville in last week’s regional final.
“We're feeling pretty good about playing Cardinal Mooney. We've played them twice this year and won,” Swearingen said. “We're aware of Cardinal Mooney's strengths and we know that we'll have to bring a lot of energy and control to the match in order to walk away with another victory.”
The Lakers have been progressing over the past few seasons, adding district and regional titles to the program’s trophy case. In order for that progression to continue, WOLL needs to win on Tuesday and reach Battle Creek.
“At the very beginning of the season, following our first tournament at Traverse City Central, where we defeated both Traverse City Central and Walled Lake Central to win the tournament, it became clear that this team had something special,” Swearingen said. “The girls all get along, they work together and they are motivated. I think it was at this point that the girls understood Battle Creek might be in our future.”