ALMA — The Vikings met expectations Thursday night when they captured Cadillac's ninth regional championship in the last 11 seasons.
Now, they want to go further.
Cadillac (42-11-1) took down host Alma in the Division 2 volleyball regional title match 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-10, 25-14) and advanced to the state quarterfinals against North Branch on Tuesday.
"We established it early that this is what we do," Cadillac head coach Michelle Brines said. "Every kid that comes up, they know what the expectation is and they're willing to put in the time over the summer and do everything we ask them to do. No one wants to be the one that doesn't win this or doesn't win that. They don't want to be the one breaking streaks."
The eighth-ranked Vikings had not dropped a single set all postseason — winning each by an average of more than 12 points — until the second against Alma when they fell 25-21. Cadillac flew through Boyne City (25-15, 25-7, 25-14), Ludington (25-14, 25-20, 25-19) and Kingsley (25-11, 25-5, 25-9) en route to a district championship and then knocked off Sault Ste. Marie (25-9, 25-15, 25-11) in the regional semis Tuesday.
The first four matches of last season's playoffs were the same for Cadillac, rattling off 12 set wins in a row before losing to Birch Run 26-24 in the first set of the state quarterfinals. The Vikings lost the second set as well (25-15) before winning the next three (25-20, 25-19, 15-7) to advance to the state semifinals, where they fell to Grand Rapids Christian in straight sets.
Brines said the loss in the second set Thursday was a helpful wake-up call.
"We turned it around and played much better. It was kind of like a jolt for us," she said. "At this stage of the game, you've got to be able to ride the good and the bad. We did that."
The Vikings were led by Renee Brines (26 assists, 22 digs, six kills, three aces), Julia Jezak (21 digs, six assists, two aces), Carissa Musta (nine kills, seven blocks, three digs), Joslyn Seeley (seven kills, six blocks, six digs), Mady Smith (13 digs, two aces, two kills), Kenzie Johns (five digs, three kills, three blocks) and Caliey Masserang (six kills, three blocks).
First serve of the Division 2 state quarterfinal against North Branch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Midland High School. North Branch is ranked No. 5 and features a young but talented core.
"You can have a game plan and know what you want to do, but you've got to be able to go out and do it," Brines said. "It's going to boil down to who plays the better match."
Titans fall in straight sets
MT. PLEASANT — Traverse City West pushed Davison to extra points in two of the three sets in the Division 1 regional championship match Thursday, but could not scratch out a victory.
The Titans lost in straight sets to the Cardinals (26-24, 25-17, 28-26), ending their season just two steps shy of Battle Creek, the state finals and the bright lights of Kellogg Arena. Both West and Davison finished the season as honorable mentions in the state rankings.
"We had a great season," West head coach Emily Baumann said. "We had a great record. We had a great year. It was a bummer to lose like that. We just didn't play our best game, but we still competed with them."
Thursday marked the second straight appearance for the Titans in the regional finals. The last time the Titans made it to back-to-back regional title matches was when they went three straight times from 2013-15, which included two regional championships in '13 and '15. The Titans beat Davison in the regional title match in 2015.
West won 12 of 13 sets coming into the championship match Thursday. The only loss was to rival Traverse City Central in the district semifinal. The Titans took down Marquette (25-12, 25-21, 27-25), TC Central (21-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-23) and Petoskey (25-10, 25-7, 25-16) to win the district championship and swept Bay City Central (25-20, 25-5, 25-19) in the regional semi Tuesday.
The loss capped the high school volleyball careers for six senior Titans — Sarah Schermerhorn, Madison Neu, Ally Jo McKenna, Becky Lane, Alaina Mikowski and Makenna Ebling. Lane (15 digs, 12 kills), Schermerhorn (29 assists, 15 digs), McKenna (31 digs) and Ebling (nine kills, 10 digs) starred for the Titans in the defeat.
"They cried real hard tonight," Baumann said. "They are such an amazing group of girls. They are outstanding students and athletes. It's going to be hard to say goodbye to them. They will always have a piece of my heart. They are just wonderful people."
Despite the senior losses, the 2022 season looks promising with freshman Rena Smith, sophomores Jenna Flick, Avery Lahti and Audrey LaFaive as well as juniors Sydney Kane, Bethany Schutte and Mallory Smith returning.
"I know we have a lot of talent coming," Baumann said. "It will be fun."
Elk Rapids swept in title match
ST. IGNACE — Elk Rapids battled in its Division 3 regional championship match, but No. 6 Calumet proved to be too much.
The Copper Kings knocked off the Elks (26-9-5) in straight sets (25-18, 25-20, 25-22) to win the regional title.
Elk Rapids was unranked heading into the match but had won 12 of the 13 sets they played in the postseason. The Elks took down Grand Traverse Academy (25-4, 25-18, 25-6), Glen Lake (25-23, 25-21, 25-18) and Traverse City St. Francis (25-22, 25-17, 23-25, 25-15) in the district tournament and swept No. 10 Charlevoix (25-23, 25-22, 25-18) in the regional semifinal Tuesday.
Thursday was only the Elks' second appearance in the regional finals in the last 12 years and their longest run since 2017 when they fell to Houghton Lake 3-1 in the regional championship match.
Seniors Logan Reasoner, Alena LaPointe, Addison Jacobs, Nevada Molby, Ava Knight, Morgan Wirtz and Grace Mischel end their tenure with the Elks' volleyball program, but they have solid players in Ryleigh Yocom, Lili Hoberg, Bri Roberts and Emma Gilbert likely returning for their senior season along with freshman Haleigh Yocom and sophomores Morgan Berquist and Violet Sumerix.
The Elks received contributions from Molby (seven kills, two blocks), Roberts (four kills, 19 digs), Gilbert (four kills), Knight (four kills, four digs), Reasoner (three kills), Wirtz (three kills, 10 digs), Mischel (24 digs) and Ryleigh Yocom (five blocks, nine digs, 30 assists) in the loss.