Similar to most high school athletic programs with a state championship-caliber roster, Northville’s volleyball team has its share of ultra-talented players who rarely leave the bench.
That wasn’t the case during Monday night’s Division 1 District 15 opener against Plymouth when every Mustang played — some gaining valuable post-season experience.
The Mustangs, ranked No. 2 in Division 1 heading into win-or-go-home season, took care of business against the Wildcats, winning 25-8, 25-8, 25-22 to advance to Wednesday’s 5 p.m. semifinal match against Canton at Northville.
“We had a few girls who saw quite a bit more playing time than they’re used to, which is important because you never know when you’re going to need those kids,” said Northville Head Coach Sarah Lindstrom.
“Brooke Feller, one of our middles, played well tonight. She got to play a little bit at the beginning of the year when Ashley Krahe got hurt. She’s gotten so comfortable out there on the court, it’s been great. And our freshman, Gabby Lavoie, played more in the back row than she does in most games.”
Lindstrom was especially grateful for the extended playing time sophomore Giselle Burlingame earned Monday.
“It’s tough because a player like Giselle is probably starting for just about every other team in the state, but she’s fighting for time on our team against the twins (Mallory and Molly Reck), who play all the way around,” Lindstrom said.
“It’s so difficult to look down the sideline most nights and see talented players like Giselle who aren’t out there on the court. That girl works her butt off, so to be able to get her in a playoff game tonight — she played close to two full sets — was cool.”
Upperclassmen lead the way
The Mustangs were led by their junior and senior mainstays — most notably senior middle Avry Nelson, senior liberos Greta McKee and Ashlee Gnau, junior setter Ella Craggs, and the Reck twins, who are juniors.
Nelson was outstanding, mixing up the speed of her deliveries to perplex the Wildcats.
Just when it looked like she was on the verge of uncorking a 100-miles-per-hour fastball, Nelson would gently tip the ball over the net with an off-speed change-up.
“Avry is so smart,” Lindstrom said. “She literally takes her eyes off the ball when she’s going up to look at the defense before she decides where and how hard to hit the ball.
“When she tips the ball, she’s not doing it because it’s a bad set; she’s doing it because she sees a block there or the defense isn’t there. She’s making split decisions in mid-air, which is great stuff.”
Wildcats battled hard
Despite facing off against one of the elite programs in the state, the spirited Wildcats held their own in the third set, battling the Mustangs point for point before falling in the end.
Seniors Mia Milacic and Kendall Elmy; juniors Tara Creekmore and Jayla Lewis; and sophomore Giana Jourdonnais made several point-extending (and point-earning) plays throughout the course of the 65-minute match.
In addition to Milacic and Elmy, Monday’s match was high school finale for Sophia Young and Isabel Mueller.
Lindstrom was proud of the way her team maintained its high energy level throughout Monday’s match.
They make their own noise
“It’s hard sometimes keeping that adrenaline level where you want it because it was pretty quiet in here to start,” Lindstrom said. “But we always tell the girls, ‘If you want it to be loud, create the noise yourself’.”
The Mustangs’ gymnasium is guaranteed to be loud for Thursday’s district championship match, which many expect will feature the hosts against highly-regarded South Lyon East, which swept Salem in Monday’s second first-round match.
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or email@example.com.