State volleyball tournament gets under way Oct. 31

By: Sue Teggart | C&G Newspapers | Published October 25, 2011

When the volleyball state tournament begins Oct. 31, teams across the state will summon up all the experience they’ve gained in the regular season to get ready for the second season.

Last year, two local teams made it to the big stage. Regular-season rivals Bloomfield Hills Marian and Farmington Hills Mercy — currently ranked No. 1 in Class A — clashed in the Class A finals, with Marian coming out on top.

For the Mustangs, the championship marked their second straight state crown, and when the state tournament begins, Marian (48-11 overall at press time) will be the team to beat again.

Coach Irick Gardner said the Mustangs, ranked No. 3 in Class A, intend to continue their winning ways as they turn their focus to the postseason.

“The girls know or understand that we’ve had success, so to a certain point, they want to proceed and continue with that tradition,” Gardner said. “They have the confidence that comes from the tradition of this program and the teams that have had success before them.

“The flipside of that is that it could hurt us, because they could think success might automatically happen. They have to realize that this is not last year’s team. The teams that won the state title, those players, are graduated. This team has not won yet.”

Gardner said the Mustangs must continue to improve and peak at the right time.

“There are a lot of good teams out there, and we have some in our route to the state finals. We have to play well,” said Gardner. “It’s an even playing field now. Teams are going to step up and play well, and we have to play our game. The expectation level is to continue to get better, and not relax and think that we’re there, because we’re not.”

For Fraser High, which dominated in the playoffs last year, marching to its 16th district title and a regional championship before falling to Marian in a quarterfinal, it’s a different story.

This year, the Ramblers have pushed the reset button for the postseason. Fraser, 4-4 at press time in the mighty Macomb Area Conference Red Division, knows that when the postseason comes around, all the records, standings and rankings get wiped away.

Fraser, which won state titles in 2003 and 2004, opens with league rival Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse at 4 p.m. Oct. 31. The Ramblers split regular-season matchups with the Crusaders this season.

“In the beginning of the year, our team goal was definitely to win districts,” coach Melissa Criteser said. “From the start of the year until now, I think they are really ready to take on the 17th district in a row. I don’t want them to think that they’re the team not to make it. I want them to try their best and do what they can. I’m confident.”

Criteser said that although Fraser has a strong presence in the state tournament, this year’s team has its own identity and goals.

“They have to give it all every moment on the court, because it’s do or die,” Criteser said. “You’re going to win and go on or lose and your season is over. I have a great group that’s not ready for the season to end.

“They know (Fraser’s) tradition, but they’re very focused on what we’re doing this year,” Criteser continued. “It’s more about meeting our goals.”

Visit www.mhsaa.com to find out where your local team is playing. On occasion, draws and match times change due to unforeseen circumstances so verify all information with the host school.

Other districts to keep an eye on:
Macomb Dakota (18-9-2 overall) was tied with Marysville atop the MAC Red at press time with a 7-2 record. The Cougars will head to the L’Anse Creuse North district. The host team was 9-0 in MAC Gold play and 19-12-4 overall.

Utica Stevenson (36-2-2, 8-1 MAC White) and Utica Ford (22-12-4, 7-2 White) were battling it out for the MAC White title at press time and will likely meet again as both are in action at Stevenson for districts. Joining them are Utica High, Eisenhower and Romeo.

Warren Woods Tower and Madison Heights Lamphere are mixing it up in the MAC Blue; Tower was 8-1 and Lamphere 7-1 at press time. Tower will serve up district action in the Class A tourney at Sterling Heights High, while the Rams will get the postseason going in a Class B draw at Warren Lincoln. The host Abes had a one-game lead over Warren Fitzgerald in the MAC Bronze Division at press time. Joining Tower and the host Stallions in the Sterling district are Warren’s Regina, Cousino and Mott.

Southfield High has won four straight Class A districts. To make it five, the Blue Jays need to get through its district at home with Detroit Henry Ford, Southfield-Lathrup, Oak Park High, Berkley High and Royal Oak High.

In Class B, Ferndale High hopes to make a return to the regional level, but first needs to survive Detroit Community, Detroit Communication Media Arts, Ferndale University, Hamtramck High, Highland Park Community and the host Livonia Clarenceville.

In Class C, Madison Heights Bishop Foley is looking to continue its dream season. The Ventures have dominated their Catholic High School League West Division are seeing some familiar foes in their district at Royal Oak Shrine with Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, Pontiac Academy for Excellence and Auburn Hills Oakland Christian.

For a complete list of all the district draws, log on to www.mhsaa.com and click on the volleyball tab.