KZoo Christian Holds Off Feisty St. Francis To Win D3 Title
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After beating the No. 2 and No. 1 teams in the state in straight sets to get to the D3 championship game, many expected Kalamazoo Christian to continue to roll in the final against No. 5 Traverse City St. Francis.…
After beating the No. 2 and No. 1 teams in the state in straight sets to get to the D3 championship game, many expected Kalamazoo Christian to continue to roll in the final against No. 5 Traverse City St. Francis.
The Gladiators had other plans.
St. Francis showed it had every right to play for the state title, as it pushed the Comets to the brink in three of four sets before Kalamazoo Christian eventually came away with a 26-24, 16-25, 25-23, 25-20 victory.
After coming up short in the 2022 state final, the Comets preached mental toughness all season and it paid off in fighting off the Gladiators for the program’s first state championship.
“It’s mental toughness,” Kalamazoo Christian seniorsaid. “That’s strictly what our team worked on after last year was mental toughness. We didn’t play the best that we played all tournament, but it shows that even when we are not playing great, we can still push through and still win.”
The first set may have been the difference in the match and where the Comets best exhibited that mental toughness.
The Gladiators led the entire set and were ahead 23-20 before Kalamazoo Christian rallied to win six of the next seven points and take the set. DeVries had four kills in the rally.
“I think a majority of it was just mental. We were getting really, really nervous. We were getting in our heads and we have to be able to just let our mistakes go and focus on what we need to do on our side of the net,” said Kalamazoo Christian coach Carlie Southland.
St. Francis didn’t waver after dropping the first set, as the Gladiators came out and controlled the entire second set as well. They started 6-0 behind three aces fromand never looked back.
“(The Comets) were relying on a lot of aces in other games and I think our serve receive was really good. I think we threw them off their game with our serving,” St. Francis coach Kathleen Nance said. “They were out-of-system a lot, more than I’ve seen them in the playoff thus far.”
St. Francis had a chance to lead the match again in the third, up 20-17 on Kalamazoo Christian, but the Comets again dug deep. Makenna Ekkens came up big this time, picking up three kills over the final eight points for her team.
“I think a lot of it is about moving the ball around on the court. We were setting our outsides a majority of the time and (St. Francis) was really stacking their blockers against us, so we had to run different sets, we had to run different hitters and move their blockers around,” Southland said.
The fourth was close most of the way, but Kalamazoo Christian scored five straight to turn a 16-15 deficit into a 20-16 advantage. The Comets wouldn’t trail again and DeVries recorded the team’s final three points with kills.
“I kind of just blacked out,” DeVries said.
DeVries finished with 16 kills and 27 digs to lead Kalamazoo Christian in the win, while Ekkens finished with 17 kills and 14 digs. Annelise deJong added 11 kills while Jovi Cochran had 28 digs and Lola Stecker tallied 39 assists.
St. Francis was led byand Mullet, who each had 15 kills and combined for 37 digs. Mullet also had five aces. had eight kills while had 24 assists and 19 digs, and had 25 digs.
The Gladiators graduate just two from this roster that came up a few points shy of the program’s first state title.
“I hope that they feel like there’s something left,” Nance said of her returning players. “That there’s something more that they can get, and I hope they know just how special it was to get here. I hope that they want to recreate that again next year.”