HUNGRY FOR MORE: Mustangs craving state title after near-miss in ’22

 HUNGRY FOR MORE: Mustangs craving state title after near-miss in ’22

Northville’s 2023 volleyball team consists of (front row from left) Greta McKee, Ashlee Gnau, Molly Reck, Giselle Burlingame, Lyza Koski, Brooke Feller, Gabby Lavoie, (back from from left) Coach Keegan Flack, Kaylyn Tuck, Ava Thomas, Ashley Krahe, Avry Nelson, Skylar Marteen, Mallory Reck, Coach Sarah Lindstrom and Ella Craggs. Not pictured are Ashlyn Swart, Coach Angie Ducat and Coach Laine Sterling.

Following an appetizing 2022 season that ended with an historic Division 1 runner-up finish in Battle Creek, Northville’s volleyball team won’t be satisfied this fall with anything less than a return trip to the Cereal City.

Because, as Kellogg’s main spokes-tiger Tony would say, the Mustangs have all the pieces in place to be Gr-r-r-reat!

Led by Head Coach Sarah Lindstrom and several talented underclassmen (who are now seniors and juniors), Northville advanced to the 2022 D1 championship match for the first time in school history against defending champion Birmingham Marian, which held off the Mustangs in four games.

While the finish was bittersweet for the Mustangs in the minutes immediately after the season-ending loss, the team quickly realized what an OMG!-level feat they had accomplished.

History-making effort

“Usually when you’re handed a trophy after a match, the players all run up to you and they’re ecstatic,” Lindstrom reflected. “This was a second-place trophy, though, so it was different. It hurt.

A Northville hitter gets ready to unload on a set during a Thursday morning practice
A Northville hitter gets ready to unload on a set during a Thursday morning practice

“But the second they placed that trophy in my hand, I turned to the team and said, ‘Get over here. We just took second in the state. You’ve gone further than any team to ever wear these jerseys. By the time we were in the locker room, I think it settled in what they had done and how proud they should be of themselves.”

Proud, but not satisfied, Lindstrom added.

“This team is very hungry,” said Lindstrom. “I think they know what we’re capable of this season. Our team motto is, ‘Let Us Cook’, which the girls made up.

“Our offensive player of each game will be given a giant fork that she’ll get to keep until the next game, and our defensive player of each game will receive a giant spoon.”

Solid returning nucleus

Although 10 Mustangs return from last season’s memory-making run — namely senior college Division 1-level liberos Greta McKee and Ashlee Gnau, and elite setter Ella Craggs — Lindstrom revealed her team’s path to Battle Creek could actually be tougher this autumn than last.

“Everybody on this team knows that, as good as we are, that doesn’t mean we’re going to make it (to the D1 Final Four) again,” Lindstrom said. “We have a tougher route this year. South Lyon East is in our district and they’re very good.

“The nice thing is, a lot of these girls got a taste last year of what it’s like and they want to get back.”

McKee, who will play for the Wright State University beginning in 2024, and Craggs, a junior who has already received D1 offers, will serve as the Mustangs’ captains.

Northville volleyball players worked hard during a fast paced practice Thursday morning
Northville volleyball players worked hard during a fast paced practice Thursday morning

“Along with being a great libero, Greta is an outstanding person,” Lindstrom said. “She hasn’t taken one day off in the gym for as long as I’ve known her, and I’ve coached her since she was about 10.

“Last week Greta walked 60 miles in a three-day breast cancer fundraiser in Boston, but she flew back as soon as that was over and was at our practice at 8:30 a.m. the next day, which tells you all you need to know about her dedication to our team and the sport.”

Set for success

Lindstrom said Craggs is an elite team-enhancer.

“Ella is an incredible setter and she is a silent leader — she’s not over-the-top and crazy flashy,” Lindstrom said. “She is simply one of the best setters I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached a lot of great setters.

“Ella moves the ball around. Both of her parents are coaches, so her volleyball IQ is very high. She knows how to set up match-ups and pull blockers. Setters like Ella can elevate an entire team. You can have all the pieces we have, but without her, we aren’t as good. She’s the glue.”

Gnau also earned high praise from her coach — both for her on- and off-court brilliance.

“Ashlee is always one of the hardest-working kids in the gym,” Lindstrom said. “And she’s one of the nicest. Ashlee (who will play for Syracuse beginning in the fall of 2024) and Greta give us two Division 1 liberos. I can’t think of another high school team that can say that.”

The Mustangs are strong up front, too, thanks to the presence of senior middle Avry Nelson and junior twin outside hitters Molly and Mallory Reck.

“Avry has gotten better every time she’s touched the ball since she’s been here,” Lindstrom said. “She’s a great leader for this team, too. She used to be one of the quietest girls on the team; now she’s one of the loudest.

Terrific twins

“The Reck twins are coming into their own as leaders. Last season they were more role players for us, but now they’re finding themselves and will be our two outside hitters. I’m excited to see what they accomplish this season.”

Lindstrom said the KLAA West Division should be competitive thanks to the presence of Brighton, Novi and Hartland.

But if there is an unofficial favorite, it would be the Mustangs, who are ready to snap, crackle and pop.

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or


Ed Wright

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