Plymouth Christian defeats Oakland Christian for first state title
(Photos by Hockey Weekly | MHSAA Network)
Battle Creek – Plymouth Christian become the first team since 2004 to win a Class D other than Battle Creek St. Philip or Leland.
The top-ranked Eagles did so with a 3-1 victory over sixth-ranked Auburn Hills Oakland Christian on Saturday in the Class D state finals at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.
Plymouth Christian (35-11-3) posted a 25-18, 22-25, 25-19, 25-19 victory to claim the school’s first state title. The Eagles lost in the 2010 state finals to St. Philip and lost to St. Philip in a semifinal last season.
“We played a really tough schedule to help prepare us for this,” said Plymouth Christian coach D.J. Kellogg. “We played a lot of top teams in the state, including Class A and Class B teams. We played Clarkston, Novi, (Macomb) Dakota, (Pontiac) Notre Dame Prep, North Branch…We played so many good teams to help us get here. We played in the Beast of the East Tournament which is the best tournament in the state every year. We were the only Class D team that played in it this year.”
The game featured a rare matchup of two teams from the same conference — Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue Division co-champions. The league rivals shared the crown with 9-1 records this season.
“It was kind of ironic that we got a chance to play a team in our league in the state finals. But that’s what happened and we were ready,” said senior Olivia Mady. “We wanted to get here this time. Last year we were kind of like a deer in headlights and didn’t make it to (the finals).”
Plymouth Christian led 21-12 in Game 4 before Oakland Christian mounted a comeback to cut the deficit down to 22-19. Kills by Aliah Pries and Gabriella Kellogg and a match-ending ace from Grace Kellogg helped deliver the Eagles.
Grace Kellogg finished 43-for-48 attacking with a game-high 21 kills for Plymouth Christian. Gabriella Kellogg added 13 kills, Abigail Pray had 26 assists and Jessica Paulson recorded 18 assists for the Eagles.
“We talked about all season coming here and being in this position after (losing in the semifinals) last year,” said coach Kellogg. “We knew we had the tools, a lot of weapons. We knew we had a lot of rotations where we weren’t weak. This was the ultimate goal. We focused on getting better. We checked the stats at the end of each practice to see what we need to work on. It was all about getting better each week.”
It was the final game for Oakland Christian coach Priscilla Larned, who was at the helm of the Lancers’ volleyball program for 32 seasons and also had coaching stints with girls soccer, girls basketball and softball since coming to the school in the early 1970s.
“I’ll be able to sleep in on more Saturdays now,” Larned said.
“To be honest, we had some problems getting into a flow today. Plymouth changed some things with their setter and they played a great match. That doesn’t change how proud I am of this group of getting here. I would have liked to get to go home with a different trophy. But I am still proud of this group of girls. They are a special group of girls that gave it their all this season.”
Alexandra Gudobba had 14 kills and 16 digs for Oakland Christian (43-5-5). Marisa Mingle added seven kills and 11 digs and Samantha Morse had 28 assists and five aces for the Lancers.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Remember to watch the highlights from this game on the STATE CHAMPS! HS Sports Show, Sunday morning at 9:00 am on Fox Sports Detroit!