MANTON — The Mesick volleyball team spent a considerable amount of time together over the past two months preparing for Tuesday’s Division 4 state quarterfinal against Fowler.
They didn’t have to break the Michigan High School Athletic Associations rules against meeting during the shutdown, because half of the team lives with another teammate.
Three pairs of sisters, two of which are Mesick head coach Stacy Quiggin’s daughters, and the rest of the Bulldogs used the family bond to mount a five-set comeback victory Tuesday over No. 11-ranked Fowler at Manton High School. The Bulldogs won 25-22, 18-25, 22-25, 25-23 and 15-10 to earn the first trip to the state semifinals in school history.
“I feel like it made us be able to communicate very well and not get upset at each other,” Mesick hitter Kelsey Quiggin said about playing as a family. “We were able to bond with each other and it felt really good to win this together.”
Head coach Stacy Quiggin was worried her team might come into Tuesday night with a lot of nerves and could be a bit rusty following a 59-day layoff from competition but the Bulldogs came back from the break with a first-set victory. The Eagles pushed to a 22-22 tie before Lexy Abraham notched a couple straight points to put the Bulldogs up 1-0. The rust Stacy Quiggin was worried about was shaken off immediately.
“It meant that we could do it,” Kelsey said of the first set victory. “Then we just had to put our mind to it, knowing we could just win if we really wanted to and we just needed to relax and do what we do.”
Stacy Quiggin said she could see the confidence building in her team after they realized they could hang with a Fowler team that was “tested more” than her team this season.
The Eagles had other plans of course. After the early deficit, Fowler took games two and three without relinquishing the lead in either once they took control. It wasn‘t the layoff that was hurting the Bulldogs, rather the idea that were already ahead against a team favored to beat them.
“I think nerves were getting the best of them and they were trying to overplay and overdo things,” Stacy Quiggin said. ”I told them don’t play anymore than what you normally do, just do what got us here and it would take us through.
“They just started to relax and play like themselves. They just played more relaxed with that aggressiveness and started spreading the set around.”
Fowler began to take hold in game four but a crucial six-point run by Mesick turned the match around. The Bulldogs were down 20-17 with the season on the line and let the Eagles make a host of unforced errors, capped off by a Kelsey Quiggin kill to gave them a 23-21 lead. Kelsey would notch a kill to get to 24 and her older sister Grace capped the game four win with a kill of her own to make it 25-23.
Stacy Quiggin saw that her team had a shot to reach its first semifinal and noticed the difference between the sets they won and lost on Tuesday. All she had to do was wrangle in the family with some words of encouragement.
“We’re proud of you guys no matter what but put that aside, and just go out and play,” Stacy Quiggin said to her team. ”Just play hard, play aggressive, play together and do all those things that makes makes us work.”
They responded with a fifth set that left no doubt they were primed for Battle Creek. Mesick busted out to a 9-5 lead and never looked back on its way to a 15-10 fifth-set victory.
The Eagles were down five starters because of coronavirus quarantine and had several JV players step into the lineup for the quarterfinal game.
“I was missing five players that are regularly on the floor,” Fowler head coach Patty Feldpausch said. “I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but we had to put a whole new lineup in and had six days to practice it. Half of my lineup were my JV players, so we did not play like we did on film.”
Kelsey and Grace Quiggin combined for 18 kills, 10 digs an ace and a block. Trinity Harris, the older sister of freshman Harmony Harris, had six kills for Mesick. Lexy Abraham matched Kelsey’s mark with 11 kills and added an ace while Kaylee O’Neill led the defense with 17 digs at libero.
Stacy Quiggin said she plans to keep things the same on their first trip to the state finals.
“It’s going to be the same mantra,” Stacy said. “We have to keep doing what got us here, our normal play and what we normally do which is that tight knit group of working together and playing as a family that got us here. We’re just going to keep doing our thing and see where it goes.”
The Bulldogs will take on Battle Creek St. Phillip, who took down Lansing Christian Tuesday, in the Division 4 semifinals Friday at noon at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.