GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Third-ranked North Branch outlasts No. 2 Notre Dame Prep in regional thriller

| November 9, 2016 | Comments (0)



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IMLAY CITY — Having North Branch and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep face off in a state tournament showdown is kind of like a box of chocolates — you truly never know what you might get in the end.

After another assortment of a 1-hour, 58-minute classic tourney encounter that featured multiple long volleys, strategic moves, floor-moving kills and defensive dives — an expected performance from these two perennial state powers teams — and it was third-ranked North Branch that prevailed in a 3-1 fashion over second-ranked Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the Class B regional semifinal Tuesday night at Imlay City High School.

North Branch posted a 25-18, 21-25, 25-19, 25-21 triumph in their only meeting this season.

“After what we went through a couple of years ago at their place and some of the other battles we’ve had over the years, I expected this type of game,” said veteran North Branch coach James Fish. “They are a fantastic team and they are very young. I told one of my assistants that we had to get them tonight because I don’t think anyone in Class B is going to touch them the next two years.

“This was a fantastic volleyball match,” continued Fish. “It felt like more than (just) a regional semifinal, to be honest. This was more like a (Final Four) contest.”

Three years ago the two perennial powers played to a five-game, 2-hour, 45-minute classic in the regional finals in which Notre Dame Prep clawed back from match point to win the contest. The Irish also ventured to the state title that season.

Although this match did not go five games and last nearly three hours like the 2013 match, it did provide an atmosphere worthy of a deep state tournament contest.

After both teams split the first two games, North Branch found itself in a 10-7 deficit in Game 3 before Fish called a time out.

North Branch went on a 11-2 run after that point to seize control, eventually taking the pitiful third set and eventually pulling away in the match-deciding fourth set.

“I told my girls that Notre Dame was playing loose and we were playing tight. We had to slow their momentum,” said Fish. “We were able to rattle off some points at that point with a big run and gained the momentum back. We carried that into the fourth set.”

Notre Dame Prep (52-10-6) led briefly in Game 4, 2-0, before the Bronchos flipped back into the lead. The largest advantage came with a 20-16 lead before the Irish clawed back to within 22-21.

A pair of Olivia Fike kills finished off Notre Dame Prep and sent North Branch into Thursday’s regional finals against Goodrich, which dispatched Marysville 3-0 in Tuesday’s second semifinal.

Fike had 15 kills, overshadowed by sophomore Allyson Severance’s stellar 17 kills and 23 digs. Madee Miner recorded 44 assists for North Branch, which picked up 54 kills on the night and had only 11 attacking errors.

Maddy Chinn led the Fighting Irish with 20 kills, six blocks, 13 digs, nine service points and four aces. Natalie Risi served up five points including an ace to go along with 13 kills, 18 assists and 10 digs.

Gabrielle Shilling collected 10 kills and four blocks blocks, Lauren Burnick dished out a season-high 25 assists, freshman Taylor Raiola had eight kills and 17 digs, while Maria Famularo had a team-high 19 digs and seven service points.

“I actually thought we played a good game overall. We just had a few mistakes at the wrong times,” sighed Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wroubel, who carried only two seniors on the Irish’s roster. “North Branch is a terrific team. They are very good defensive team with some weapons.

“We are starting some juniors, a freshman and three sophomores,” added Wroubel. “We are very young. We should be stronger next year. We have all of our starters back. This past year we graduated all of our defense and that created some ups and downs this year. But this year of experience should help for next season. We only lose two seniors and neither of them played all that much.”

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Category: Editor's Column, Featured Articles, High School, NOS reference, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Sport, Top Stories, Uncategorized, Volleyball

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