St. Philip to Play for Division 4 Volleyball State Title Saturday
After a five-season absence from the final four teams in the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Girls Volleyball playoffs, the St. Philip Fighting Tigers will be playing for their potential 21st State championship.
The Michigan Volleyball Coaches Association's D4 honorable mention Tigers advanced to the State Finals Friday with a 3-0 set sweep of the Mesick Bulldogs, who was making their first-ever trip to the State Semifinals. The State Semis and Finals are taking place at Kellogg Arena for the 15th consecutive season.
Game 1 was dominated by a few runs by the Fighting Tigers in a 25-13 win. St. Philip pulled ahead with a 5-0 run during Alexis Snyder's service and a couple of kills from junior ouside hitter Brooke Dzwik to make it 7-3. The Tigers and Bulldogs traded points for a better part of the opener, but another run in the end during Dzwik's service gave the home town squad the win. Dzwik tallied 10 kills in the first game.
Game 2 was a different story as the Tigers had several unforced errors to give the Bulldogs the early lead. After Mesick got into a 14-14 following a 4-0 run, St. Phil called a timeout that would benefit the Tigers. St. Philip would pull ahead thanks to an late 8-3 run pulled the Tigers head to force a Bulldog timeout at 18-16. Key kills from senior middle hitter Harleen Deol and junior setter Alexis Snyder kept the Red and White momentum to lead St. Philip 25-20 victory.
Mesick pulled out to a 5-2 lead in Game 3, but the Tigers kept crawling back into the game. Another 5-0 run from St. Philip in the middle of the game put them up 15-12 to force another Bulldog timeout. It didn't stop from there with the continued Deol, Dzwik and Snyder attack to complete the sweep. The back row defense stopped late threats from the Bulldogs for much of the closer. A late charge from Mesick forced a St. Philip timeout on match point. A service error after the timeout game STP a 25-19 finish.
Dzwik, who named to the the D4 All-State First Team, finished with 30 kills on the afternoon. Deol had nine kills and Snyder had three aces.
St. Philip head coach Vicky Groat, who is heading into her 15th final in 23 years as the lead, said after the match that even though she's been to the State Finals before, this is a different group to take there.
I'm spoiled because its something that I've experienced a lot of times as a player, as a coach. After Tuesday's (Quarterfinal) win, I think cried like a baby though I've experienced it before and I've done it before. These kids haven't done this before and it's been five years since we've been here. You don't take it (winning in the Semifinals) for granted.
I asked if there was added pressure playing so close to home, even with limited tickets for immediate families, Brooke Dzwik stated -
We got our kids out of school today, so they all were excited for that. So, we also felt the need to not only make our kids proud that weren't able to be here and for our parents and grandparents who weren't able to be here, too. We wanted to live up to St. Philip's legacy because all three of us (Dzwik, Deol and junior Baily Fancher) have been in these stands watching St. Phil win a championship or losing a finals.
Deol, the lone senior on the squad, added -
It's beyond huge pressure. It's bringing back St. Philip's legacy, but it's not just St. Phil pressure. This brings all of Battle Creek together. We're friends with kids from other schools. Knowing that St. Phil's here, we have support from Lakeview, Harper Creek and every other school, so we are more at ease playing at home.
And Fancher concluded -
I do feel sometimes that we have pressure even though we are at home and everyone is coming to us now. When every school comes to support us, our parents, our families, the kids at home watching our game, that makes it feel so much better and feels much better to win.
The Tigers now take on Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, who eliminated Carney-Nadeau in four games in the other Semifinal. The State Final is slated for Saturday at 10 a.m.