Macomb Lutheran North volleyball players celebrate a point in an Oct. 29 Catholic High School League Cardinal Division tournament final win. The team won CHSL division  and tournament championships  this season.

Macomb Lutheran North volleyball players celebrate a point in an Oct. 29 Catholic High School League Cardinal Division tournament final win. The team won CHSL division and tournament championships this season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Lutheran North volleyball coach talks banner year

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published November 14, 2019

 Lutheran North’s  Savannah Schwarzwalder leaps to block a shot in a match earlier this season. The Mustangs won 26 matches this season.

Lutheran North’s Savannah Schwarzwalder leaps to block a shot in a match earlier this season. The Mustangs won 26 matches this season.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb Lutheran North volleyball coach Jessie Lancaster knows her team’s playoff run ended sooner than they would have liked.

But it doesn’t take away from what the Mustangs accomplished this season.

North won its first Catholic High School League AA Division crown since 2015. Then the team bested Warren Regina 3-1 Oct. 29 to win its first CHSL tournament title of any kind. The program only recently began competing in CHSL tournaments.

“We spent a lot of time developing our mental game, which helped us stay calm under pressure and helped us come through in the clutch in many matches,” said Lancaster, whose team eventually fell Nov. 4 in a Division 2 district quarterfinal to Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day. “We had outstanding leadership from our senior captains, which led to a more collaborative approach.”

Lancaster looks at the team as a small squad that did big things. The team’s tallest player (senior setter Katie Petersdorf) stood 5-foot-10. The team’s outside and middle hitters on average stood 5-foot-7. Senior outside hitter Kennedy Dolmage — a 2020 Oakland University commit who stands 5-foot-6 — switched to outside hitter from libero and led the team with 422 kills.

“What a remarkable season we had,” Lancaster said. “Being placed in a really tough district doesn’t take away from the team that we are or the season that we had.”

North ended the year at 35-6-1 overall. That included an undefeated run in the CHSL AA Division.

Lancaster said the perfect run in the division required a great deal of focus.

“We were down against (Allen Park Cabrini) 20-10 in the second game of a match. We were able to come back from behind and win 25-23. That takes tenacity,” Lancaster said.

The coach noted that in the CHSL tournament, senior outside hitter Abby Thoms was sidelined with an injury in the semifinal.

“Instead of feeling scared or defeated, we dug in and did what we needed to do to win the semifinals and the final match without one of our season-long key players,” Lancaster said. “We were determined to accomplish our goal of winning the league, and (Thoms) wouldn’t let us slack off for a minute. She has always been the heart of the team, and her being sidelined wasn’t going to lessen the fire she brings.”

Thoms, Dolmage and Petersdorf served as team captains this season. All three now depart the program having made their mark. The Mustangs have eight players eligible to return next season.

Lancaster, who hopes to add a varsity assistant coach next season, believes the future of the program is bright.

“The returning players will step up just like this year’s seniors did,” Lancaster said. “It’s amazing what athletes will do when you give them the opportunity to shine.

“Between our three teams (freshman, JV and varsity), we won six tournaments and our collective program record was 102-15-4. We are fostering a family feel to the volleyball program here. … The entire coaching staff (which also includes JV coach Samantha Gray and freshman coach Sarah Neumeyer) has a cohesive relationship, and we are working together to continue to do great things here at Lutheran North.”

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