BATTLE CREEK – The Comets were on fire headed into the state championship game in Battle Creek Saturday.
But they burned up in the Kellogg Arena atmosphere, falling to No. 2 Mendon in straight sets –– 25-16, 25-21, 25-14.
The Leland Comets came into the Division 4 title game without dropping a set in the playoffs, but went ice cold at the worst possible time and couldn't rally back.
The Comets fell prey to an explosive offensive attack by the Hornets, led by sophomore Anna Smith, that hit 39 percent of their kill attempts.
"I thought Mendon played better than us today," Comets head coach Laurie Glass said. "We lost to the better team today. If they play their best and we play our best I think the scores might be different. I didn't think we played our best. I didn't think we were horrible, but I think they were better than us."
Headed into this game, Leland knew they would have their hands full with the Hornets' hitters but Smith was more than a handful for the Comets.
"We knew there was no containing number 8 (Smith)," Glass said. "We didn't think we were going to contain her but we hoped we could stop the other people who were scoring. They hit almost .400 as a team and that is tough to beat. They didn't make a lot of mistakes at all."
The Hornets relentless assault pushed the Comets out of their defensive system which led to less than desirable offensive chances for Leland.
Mendon was able to do what most other teams weren't against the Comets –– dominate the flow of the game.
The Hornets never let the Comets break off one of their signature runs and pull away at any point which seemed to break down Leland's confidence.
The Comets never found the same swagger as the rest of their playoff run and it showed. Senior Ella Siddall noticed the change and recognized that it may have made things different.
"I think today was a little different, the vibe was a little different," Siddall said. "I definitely think that it was just more tight. It is a bigger match than semis but I think we just felt tight. I don't think we let loose and laid everything out."
Leland made some uncharacteristic errors on the biggest stage. There were some whiffs, missed passes and lost points on unforced errors. They never seemed to get comfortable and that was a product of the Hornets game plan.
"We always try to get the other team out of system," Hornets first year head coach Heather Bowers said. "That was a big part of our game plan."
Mendon executed perfectly and was led by Smith with 18 kills and Hayley Kramer with 11. Their defense was also stellar as every Hornet contributed at least one dig and combined for 11 blocks.
Allie Martin had 13 kills, Hanna Elwell had seven kills and Tatum Kareck had six for the Comets.
Siddall totaled 30 assists which puts her into fifth place all-time in MHSAA history and had nine digs.
This is the first state title for Mendon since 2001 and the fourth in program history. The Comets have made a tradition of making the trip to Battle Creek, making the semifinals three out of the last four years.
Leland finishes the season 48-11-1 with a Northwest Conference title, regional crown and hopes they can make it back to the finals again next year. They will return a few valuable pieces from this team in sophomores Tatum Kareck and Mia Osorio along with junior Gillian Grobbel, all who played significant time on this state runner-up team.
As for the mood after the game, there was one lingering feeling from coach Glass.
"I couldn't be prouder of the effort that we showed today," she said. "But I'd like to play them again tomorrow."