Bloomfield Hills circles up on the court after scoring a point.

Bloomfield Hills circles up on the court after scoring a point.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Bloomfield Hills volleyball ‘challenged’ in step-forward season for program

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 3, 2023

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The state tournament brings a different level of competition, but Bloomfield Hills has pulled the short end of the stick the past two seasons with Farmington Hills Mercy and Bloomfield Hills Marian in its respective districts.

Both teams ranked in the top-10 in Division 1. Bloomfield Hills fell to Mercy in the opening round of districts in 2021 and to Marian in the district finals in 2022.

“They know the challenge that lies ahead,” Bloomfield Hills coach Jacob Paige said. “The last three years, Marian has been in our district, and they’ve won the state championship, obviously. As a coach and as the athletes, they know they need to be challenged.”

Paige, in his third season as head coach, made sure his squad was battle-tested this season before the state tournament, and it’s paid off more than he could’ve imagined.

Holding a 25-6 record this year, Bloomfield Hills has defeated some of the best teams in the state in its 2023 campaign.

Bloomfield Hills has bested Detroit Country Day (No. 10 in Division 2), Farmington Hills Mercy (No. 7 in Division 1), and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (No. 5 in Division 2) this season, along with its already stacked non-conference schedule.

Returning all-Region sophomore middle hitter Kayla Nwabueze might only be in her second year on varsity, but she’s playing like a four-year veteran.

A dominating freshman last year for the Black Hawks, Nwabueze has been sensational this season on the front line.

“From freshman year to sophomore year, she took a monster leap, and she’s dominating the net right now,” Paige said. “Absolutely dominating the net.”

Alongside Nwabueze, senior outside hitter Kora Nicolanti, senior hitter Annalise Parker, and senior hitter Natalie Petrucci have provided a boost on the attacking end with freshman Brynn Wilcox and senior Caroline Azzali Bello anchoring the setter position. Petrucci has also been a key factor on the back line for Bloomfield Hills as well.

Wilcox is one of three freshmen to provide some youthful support for Bloomfield Hills, with freshman outside hitter Julia Colosimo and defensive setter Alyssa Moir also becoming consistent contributors this season.

It’s been an adjustment for the first-year players, but the veterans are helping them every step of the way.

“Because I’m used to a slower offense, running a faster offense and learning from my hitters and Caroline (Azzali Bello), the other setter, has helped a lot,” Wilcox said.

In the running for most improved player of the year, Nicolanti has been a spark for the Bloomfield Hills attack, forming a nice one-two punch with Nwabueze.

Paige said she’s been able to bring just about everything he could ask for from her on the court.

“She’s really improved her passing, attacking, and just her all-around game,” Paige said. “She’s taken her training real serious, and she’s become one of our most consistent attackers.”

Bloomfield Hills is rolling at the perfect time with the state tournament just a month away, and its 3-0 record in the Oakland Activities Association Red  Division has the Black Hawks tied for the top spot in the conference.

The Black Hawks are ready for whatever challenge is ahead, and they have a whole new attitude and atmosphere to their squad this season.

“People are meshing well together and people are coming out of their shells,” Nwabueze said. “It’s just a fun vibe to be with.”