BY DENNIS CHASE
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Bridget Bussell's senior year keeps getting better.
The St. Francis standout signed a letter-of-intent Wednesday to attend school and play volleyball at Northern Michigan University.
Bussell earned All-State honors in leading the Gladiators to the Class C state volleyball finals in November. She was a starter on the basketball team that reached the regional finals in March.
"It's been an awesome, amazing senior year," she said.
Bussell finished the volleyball season with 580 kills, 331 digs, 148 aces and 68 blocks.
"She's a great volleyball player, a great student and, more importantly, an awesome kid," St. Francis co-coach Heather Simpson said. "Coaches would coach a lot longer if they had players like Bridget. She's a program-changer. She helped put our volleyball program on the map, not just with her volleyball skills, but with her personality, the way she embraced her teammates, her school, her community. She's a class act. I wish I had one more year with her."
Bussell missed the end of her junior season after dislocating an ankle in a Oct. 13 match at Grayling.
The injury also forced her to miss the start of the AAU winter season.
"It set her back a little,' Simpson said. "She really only had one year under her belt after the injury. But she's going to flourish (at Northern Michigan). She's well-conditioned. She's in great shape. They got a steal."
Bussell had narrowed her college choices down to two.
"At the beginning of the year I was all over the place," she said. "At the end, it was between Alma and Northern."
Bussell attended a Northern Michigan University match in November and followed that up by attending a tryout at the Division 2 school.
"I really enjoyed the coach (Dominic Yoder), and the girls were really nice," Bussell said. "And I love Marquette. It's a beautiful city. I like the outdoors — and the snow."
Among those attending Bussell's signing ceremony Wednesday was Tammy Knudsen's first-grade students. Bussell helps out with the class twice a week.
"Her (Knudsen's) daughter is my best friend," Bussell said. "That was cool."
"She's a role model and mentor to many," Simpson added.
Bussell verbally committed to the Wildcats earlier this year. Yoder's reaction?
"He was really excited," Bussell said. "I am, too."