By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BUCKLEY — Laurie Glass has lost track of the number of regional titles her Leland volleyball team has won.
Yet all the postseason success the Comets have had over the years never gets old for the veteran coach.
“It’s always a new batch of kids and I’m always really thrilled that they get a shot and an opportunity to do this,” said Glass. “So every year is a good year.”
Leland made it three straight regional crowns on Thursday, sweeping Bellaire 3-0 in a Class D championship match, 25-18, 25-21, 25-22.
The Comets took each game, but it wasn’t necessarily easy as Bellaire played them tough in each of the three games. The Eagles used a fast start to lead most of the opening game, then stormed back from deficits to make the next two games close.
“When we control things on our side of the net we do well. When we don’t we’re in trouble, just like anyone else would be,” said Glass. “They were up I don’t know how many points on us (in the first game) — quite a few points. That’s what I said in the time out, ‘What’s happening right now is our fault. We’re making the mistakes. So that’s a correctable thing, as opposed to their doing something to us that we have to respond to. We need to relax and do our things better and we’ll be OK.’”
Leland, which trailed by as many as six points in the opening game, battled back to take its first lead, 17-16, on a kill by Noa Yaakoby, who led the Comets with 15 kills. From there they outscored the Eagles 8-2, but it was not the way the Comets had envisioned the contest transpiring.
“We didn’t expect any of what they had to offer,” said Leland sophomore Madison Trumbull, who had 10 kills. “We worked on tipping, but they had a lot more than we expected. We just adapted to it and eventually came back and won.”
Leland had ousted Bellaire 3-1 in the Eagles first regional appearance at last year’s semifinals. Once again, the furthest postseason run in Bellaire school history was ended at the hands of the Comets.
“The girls fought. They played hard. Leland’s a great team and we really made them play hard to beat us,” said Bellaire coach Kelli Fischer. “We had great passing, great effort all over the floor and I was just really proud of how hard they played. We always felt like we were right in it.”
Even as the Eagles fell behind by nine in the second game, they came right back and got within three points, 19-16, forcing another timeout from Glass, before the Comets were able to regroup and take the 2-0 lead in the match.
“They were pushing corners and trying to keep us off-balance that way,” said Glass. “When we passed poorly we were in trouble. They (Bellaire) weren’t chasing some of the balls that we had that were out.”
The two teams were deadlocked 19-19 in the final game, but Bellaire couldn’t extend the match.
“They have some really powerful, hard hitters,” said Fischer. “We made them hit, made them hit, made them hit. We just have a hard time finding that finishing hit.”
Brandy O’Neal led the Eagles with four kills and Renee LaLone added three kills. O’Neal also chipped in with three blocks and 12 digs, while LaLone had two blocks. Defensively, Chloe Niepoth had 17 digs and Tiffany Clovis added 13 digs. Madalyn Balon contributed eight assists.
Caitlin McKee led Leland’s servers with six aces and led her team with 24 assists. Yaakoby had five aces. Leading the defense was Miranda Harrison with 12 digs, Whitney Schaub had 11 digs and Heather Burns came through with 10 digs. Felicia Whittaker contributed seven kills.
Leland, which lost to eventual state champion Battle Creek St. Philip in last year’s quarterfinals, plays Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in Tuesday’s quarterfinal at Evart. But for now, the Comets were savoring their latest trophy-winning performance.
“It means so much,” said Trumbull. “I’m so happy to win with my team and just be a part of a team that loves each other so much.”