Novi wins semifinal easily, will attempt to repeat as champions against Rockford
(Photos by Hockey Weekley / MHSAA Network)
Battle Creek - Like a well-oiled machine, Novi keeps churning out the victories.
The Wildcats have averaged 50 wins over the past three seasons and have routinely defeated opponents.
The Wildcats are the top-ranked team in Class A and are now one win away from their second consecutive state title.
Novi (53-1-0) dispatched unranked Fenton, 3-0, on Friday in the state semifinals at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.
The Wildcats ousted the Tigers 25-14, 25-12, 25-15 in a Class A semifinal match that took just 1:05 to complete.
Novi’s only loss this season was to Clarkston.
Novi will play Rockford in the final at 2 p.m. It’s Novi’s third consecutive finals’ appearance. The Wildcats lost to Romeo in the 2014 final and defeated Romeo in the final last season.
The fifth-ranked Rams outlasted Temperance Bedford, 3-2, in the other semifinal.
Rockford, the 2011 state champs, lost the first two games by a 25-23 and 26-24 count, only to claw back to post 25-19, 25-12 and 15-11 set victories to advance to the finals.
“Novi is a very good team with a lot of weapons, But it’s the state finals and anything can happen. We feel like we have some good players, too,” smiled Rockford coach Kelly Delacher.
Going into a five-set match for the third straight postseason game prepared Rockford.
“It’s the third straight round that we’ve gone five sets. I think that steadied us a little bit even being down 2-0,” added Delacher. “We didn’t give up. We fought back and found a way.”
Novi's Erin O’Leary, who recently committed to Michigan and is considered one of the nation’s top junior setters, directed an offense with 43 assists against no setting errors. Six different Novi players registered kills. Kathryn Ellison led the way with 17 kills and 10 digs. Ally Cummings had 15 kills and 13 digs, and Traverse City Central transfer Abryanna Cannon (Notre Dame) had 11 kills.
Novi finished a sterling 110-for-117 attacking and recorded a .418 percentage on kills.
“We are so hard to defend,” Novi coach Jennifer Cottrill said. “Kathryn is (6-foot-1) and touches almost 10 feet — she’s a huge mismatch, something we saw on film and something we wanted to go after. We have five hitters who can really bring it. Teams have a hard time stopping (our offense) because we have so many hitters.
“Erin O’Leary is the catalyst to all of that. She’s our quarterback, our point guard. She gets us in our system and 90 percent of the time we are in system. We work on serving and passing a lot and we try to run a quick offense to keep teams (guessing).”
Every time Fenton tried to take the momentum, one of Novi’s powerful hitters came through in the clutch.
“Every time they tried to block Ally, we had Kathryn or one of our other hitters slide in there and come through with a kill. We have a lot of balance on this team and other teams have a hard time defending that,” Cottrill said.
This was Fenton’s fifth semifinal appearance. The other four were in Class B.
“I don’t think that anyone thought we’d get this far,” Fenton coach Jerry Eisinger said. “I think we played a lot of good teams and our chemistry was really good. We just lost to a very, very good team with a lot of good hitters.”
Fenton entered the postseason not even listed as honorable mention in the coaches association rankings, but took four teams to five sets and upset three ranked teams in the tournament.
Chloe Idoni had 11 kills and 13 digs for Fenton (46-6-3). Kiley Aldred had 19 assists and Jessica Warford (Ferris State) added eight kills for the Tigers.
“We scraped and played hard. I can’t complain about our effort against a team like that,” said Eisinger.
Novi has swept most of its opponents throughout the season.
“We’ve played some really good teams this postseason and we’ve been so focused on our side and what we do,” said Cottrill. “We know that we have the tools and if we try to do the things that we’ve done all season, we can be successful (in the finals).”