SCOTTVILLE — The Comets showed up at Mason County Central with a new look, but that had no bearing on they way they played in the Division 4 state quarterfinal match.
Same preparation, same routine, same result — with the exception of the four cornrows braided into the Comets' hair.
"I think it is tradition," senior setter Ella Siddall said of the hairstyle. "Our sophomore year we did it for the quarters and freshmen year for the finals. I think we had to bring the braids back."
They brought the braids and their game on Tuesday when they swept Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart 25-13, 25-8, 25-11.
The Comets are making a tradition of traveling to Battle Creek for the Final Four. They are headed downstate for the third time in four years, with a chance for this senior class to capture their second state championship.
"Being there freshmen year and knowing what the atmosphere is like, I am super pumped to show the younger kids what it is all about and warm them up to the idea," senior Allie Martin said. "After losing last year and being able to do gown (to Battle Creek) and get some redemption this year is super nice."
The Comets road to the Final Four has looked like a breeze on paper, with Leland winning every set so far this postseason, as they are methodical in their approach every night.
Tuesday was no different. The Comets looked relaxed in warmups, confident during play and loose between sets.
"We come into every gym with the same routine," Leland head coach Laurie Glass said. "We try to do the same thing we always do when we come into these matches so it looks and feels the same when we are out there. We practice with music. Music goes on in our gym just to get that energy up so all that environment stuff is really exciting for us. We are going to see that in the semifinals as well so that bodes well for us."
The Comets started firing on all cylinders after feeling out the Fighting Irish in the first six points of the first set. Leland tore off nine straight points, highlighted by three aces from sophomore Tatum Kareck, to run away with the first set and set the tone. Kareck finished with six kills and eight digs to go with her three aces.
Leland began the second game on a roll, started with kills from Hanna Elwell and Kareck for points two and three and never looked back. Senior Maddy Grosvenor kept the 13-point run going with four aces. Grosvenor led the team with five aces and Elwell led with 14 kills.
"It feels great (to win big)," Siddall said. "The whole season we have been working on being a more cohesive group and really connecting with each other on every aspect of the game. Tonight, I think we displayed that with every skill."
The Comets closed out the Fighting Irish in the third set with ease, breaking off another big run and finishing with a bang.
Glass has tried to simulate playoff type situations for the Comets all season long. From participating in Division 1 tournaments early in the season to playing loud music at every practice to simulate the noise at Kellogg Arena, the Comets feel they are ready to fight for a state title.
"By this point in time I think we know each other and what we are going to do," Glass said. "We will have to be super loud and we have been working on that. We play very loud music in our gym on a regular basis and they have to run drills in the middle of all of that and still be able to communicate well.
"It is going to be the same thing. We really try to know tendencies on the other side and make adjustments during the game depending on our opponents. But what we do on our side and how we take care of each other on our side is the main focus of what we do."
The Comets play Carney-Nadeau at 2 p.m. Friday at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. The Wolves had a close match with Onaway in their quarterfinal but came away with a 3-2 victory.
Leland may have been able to roll through their opponents up to this point, but the Comets understand now is not the time to take anyone lightly.
"We know definitely can't just expect to win anymore," junior Gillian Grobbel said. "We have to show up and work for it. We have to be ready to fight."