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G.R. Christian overcomes injury, defeats Mattawan in four games to reach Class A semifinals for first time

Volleyball   | Jeff Chaney

G.R. Christian overcomes injury, defeats Mattawan in four games to reach Class A semifinals for first time

Caledonia -- The Grand Rapids Christian volleyball team overcame adversity Tuesday night, and now the Eagles will make their first trip to Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena and the state semifinals.

Not only did Christian hold off a pesky Mattawan team that came into their Class A quarterfinal match at Caledonia High with only two losses, but the Eagles were able to overcome the loss of senior captain and vocal leader Dylynn Otte, who suffered a sprained ankle and had to be helped off the court in the second game of the match.

That was the only game the Eagles loss, beating Mattawan 25-21, 18-25, 25-23, 25-21. Christian (50-4) will play Novi on Thursday.

"Talk about heart," said Christian coach Tiffannie Gates. "To have your senior captain, who is your stud and terminator who puts the balls away go down, and to still fight like that -- I'm so proud of these girls."

Otte did lead her team to a victory in the first game with some strong spikes at the net. But she fell hard to the court in the second and immediately grabbed her ankle in pain.

She was helped to the end of the bench, but even wincing in pain, she still cheered on her teammates, and acted as a coach, directing her teammates throughout the remainder of the match.

"I am speechless right now," Otte said. "I am so proud of my team, with how hard we have all worked to get to this point. Even with me not out there, I had full belief in my team that we could pull it off. I knew it would be hard, Mattawan is a good team, but we have all worked so hard to put us in a position like we were tonight."

Senior Ellen Long, junior Hannah Warners and sophomore Maddy Gates picked up the slack.

Long was solid at the net with 16 kills and three blocks, Gates had one ace and 42 assists and Warners had 24 digs.

"For us to take it to Mattawan like we did tonight, they are a great team, I am speechless," a tearful Otte said. "I am so proud of them, and I love my team so much."

Mattawan (50-3) is one of the state’s top teams and it played that way in spurts on Tuesday.

In the end mistakes did the Wildcats in according to coach Michelle DeGroote.

"I really think this is a game of errors, and we just made more than they did tonight," said DeGroote. "I don't think we were tired, I just think when you have two or three errors in a row that takes the wind out of your sails. And it's hard to revive yourself from that."

That was most evident in the last game of the match, as the Wildcats made several errors that allowed Christian to win in four.

Leading the Wildcats was senior Taylor Wiese, who was all over the court and finished with an impressive 33 digs.