GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Oakland Christian advances to state finals for first time in school history

| November 19, 2016 | Comments (0)



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BATTLE CREEK — After several near misses, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian will finally have the chance to play on the final day of the season.

The sixth-ranked Lancers earned the right by rallying for past Rogers City 3-1 Friday in the Class D state semifinal at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena — allowing retiring head coach Priscilla Larned a chance to go out on top. 

Oakland Christian prevailed 23-25, 25-4, 25-16, 25-14 to advance to the state finals for the first time in school history.

“This is what we wanted,” smiled Larned. “We have come so close a few times, but never played on the Saturday.”

Oakland Christian (43-4-5) was 0-5 previously in Final Four matches between Class C and Class D. The Lancers last lost in the Class C state semifinals in 2013.

Auburn Hills Oakland Christian had much to celebrate Friday at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena,as the Lancers advanced to the state finals for the first time with a 3-1 victory over Rogers City.

Auburn Hills Oakland Christian had much to celebrate Friday at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena,as the Lancers advanced to the state finals for the first time with a 3-1 victory over Rogers City.

With a senior-laden roster, the Lancers have united for a glorious run through the Class D tournament, acting as a tight-knit unit. 

“There was a moment in the fourth set where no one went for the ball on their point. But they did not put each other down. They always pick each other back up and that’s what makes this group so special,” said Larned, holding back tears. “We’re finally going to play in the state final.

“This team gets along so well. I haven’t had a team like this that played for one common goal,” continued Larned. “All they wanted to do was win and get to this point. They donut care who is hot or (gaining) the stats.”

Enforced errors allowed Rogers City, honorable mention in the polls, to steal Game 1, as the Hurons (35-11-1) stormed back from a 23-20 deficit to close with a 5-0 run.

“We let that one get away,” said Larned. “It might have been nerves, a lot of unforced errors.”

The Lancers responded by limiting the Hurons to only four points in the second set and closing Game 2 with a 13-0 run. Alexandra Gudobba, a fourth-year varsity veteran, served on the run that included four aces.

That set the tone for a three-set comeback, where Oakland Christian was in control throughout much of the run.

“I told them that ‘we got this’. We just needed to calm down and play our game,” said Gudobba.

Oakland Christian rolled out to a 7-1 lead in Game 2 to set the tone in the comeback. Rogers City only led 2-1 in Game 3 and 3-2 in Game 4, respectively.

Gudobba recorded a match-high 19 kills with 14 digs to lead a balanced attack for Oakland Christian, with balance being the Lancers’ staple this season.

Marisa Mingle added 10 kills, 14 digs and three aces, and Samantha Morse contributed 10 kills and 33 assists for the Lancers.

Oakland Christian lost in the semis in 1998, 2002, 2007, 2010 and 2013 and also lost in the state quarterfinals three other times.

Kayla Rabeau had nine kills and Taylor Fleming added eight kills for Rogers City. Erika Peacock added 14 assists for the Hurons.

Rogers City, making its first semifinals appearance since 2003, could never retain the momentum after its first-set triumph.

“We play up in our own little next of the woods and it’s just not like this,” said Rogers City coach Jackie Quaine  So that’s why I was double happy to get down here because we have the chance to come in and compete for that title.”

“Oakland Christian has some really good players. Their setter is very good and they have a lot of really good hitters,” added Quaine. “We’re young. We had a sophomore middle (hitter) and a junior middle (hitter) out there and another sophomore hitter that started. It was great experience for this team.”

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