After last season’s 3-2 loss to Lake Orion in the quarterfinals, Macomb Dakota volleyball coach Tracie Ferguson said, “hopefully, we go a little bit further next year.”
The Cougars did that — and then some.
Dakota captured its first state title in program history by defeating Temperance Bedford 3-0 in the Class A state final Nov. 17 at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
Dakota won 25-22, 25-21 and 26-24, the day after knocking off Northville in the semifinal round.
“I’m so happy,” Ferguson said. “They just deserve this so much. Day in, day out, they worked hard. I’m just so happy they left it out there. We did it.”
Junior Carli Snyder was thinking about her coach after the Cougars’ victory.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “It feels great to do this for Tracie. We’re the first state champion (for) Dakota that’s girls sports. It’s incredible to give our school that.”
Adding to the remarkable story of Dakota’s 2012 season is the fact that the Cougars didn’t lose a single game throughout the entire postseason, which consisted of eight matches.
According to Ferguson, it was around mid-October when she realized her team had the capability to do something special, following a tournament in which Dakota beat the likes of Clarkston, Lake Orion and Plymouth.
“That was a big turning point for us,” she said. “Good motivator halfway through the season to keep us going.”
Ferguson believes preparation played a key role in the Cougars’ historic run.
“It’s what we did at practice,” she said. “We have really competitive practices. That way, we know that’s what has to happen in game time. The nice thing is, when you practice against one of the No. 1 players in the state (Snyder), that just picks up everybody else’s game.”
Ferguson believes the Cougars were able to build off of the experience of losing to Lake Orion last season.
“We never experienced it until last year, as far as what it took to get there,” Ferguson said. “And then, obviously, how much more it takes to get past it. We used that as a motivator this year.”
Ferguson does not intend for Dakota to rest on its laurels. Although the team will be losing seniors Taylor Vranish, Kassy Keith, Megan Downey, Leah Hofmann and Kylie Churches, she expects to return a solid nucleus next season, including Snyder, who has committed to play for the University of Florida after high school.
“I’m already looking forward to it,” she said. “I’m going to enjoy this (and) let it sink in, hopefully, soon. But next year, we still got another strong core. We’re going to lose some big seniors, but I know girls want to get better and fill those roles.”
Dakota finished the season with an overall record of 59-5.