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October 30, 2012

Bloomfield Hills Marian takes CHSL volleyball title

By Christian Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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Bloomfield Hills Marian takes CHSL volleyball title
Birmingham Marian celebrates with the trophy after beating Farmington Hills Mercy in the three games in the Catholic League A-B final.

Last season, Birmingham Marian volleyball was one game away from closing out a match against Farmington Hills Mercy on three occasions, and each time, the Marlins stormed back to win in five.

So when Marian coach Irick Gardner faced the same scenario again earlier this season, with the Mustangs letting Mercy comeback after leading 2-0 to force a fifth and final game, Gardner was all too familiar with the situation.

“But this time, we won the fifth,” he said. “I think that may have been the true turning point, giving us confidence that we could win this league, because we ended the streak for them coming back. We pulled it off and really never looked back.”

The Mustangs made good on their coach’s premonition, winning the Catholic High School League A-B Division, beating Mercy 25-22, 25-14 and 25-28 Oct. 22 at Madonna University in the championship match.

“I think it was a combination of, as the game progressed, we got more confident and played better,” Gardner said.

The same could be said for the entire season. Marian is 45-11 and has its sights set on a Division 1 state championship.

Even with only one returning starter, Gardner believed he’s always had the team to accomplish CHSL and state titles, but it would depend on how the players grew together as a team.

“I think it’s a close team. I think the team is more cohesive, and that’s huge. You can have a good group of players, but if they’re not on the same page, it’s going to be a struggle. This group, for the most part, is certainly on the same page,” he said.

Marian has won nine CHSL titles since 2001, but the last two belonged to Mercy.

None of the current players on the roster had won a title until this season.

“When you win three or four in a row, you kind of get used to it, but if you lose two in a row, it’s a different feeling when you do win it,” Gardner said. “It’s certainly up there with the other championships we’ve won.”

Gardner noted that the team has continued to improve but still has room to be even better. He believes the squad has the talent to win a state title, especially after winning a tournament it hosted two weeks ago with a field that had five of the top-10 ranked teams in the state in attendance.

“It was a very competitive tournament. The majority of the matches went three games, but we won it without a loss,” Gardner said. “That was kind of another turning point of, ‘Well, we have as much of a chance as any other team to win the state championships, because many of the great teams in the state were here.’”

CHSL C-D tournament
Before the Mustangs won their title, Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart took on Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes.

The Gazelles fell 25-19, 25-9 and 25-23.

It was Lakes’ first title since 2001. Sacred Heart has yet to win one.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.