By Wendi Reardon Price
Clarkston News Sports Writer
BATTLE CREEK — Clarkston Everest Collegiate junior Sarah Bradley made the serve in the fifth and final set of the MHSAA Division 4 Volleyball State Championship at the Kellogg Arena, Nov. 18.
The serve went unreturned by Leland, giving the Mountaineers a 15-13 victory to win the state championship.
“I was just blown away by our girls,” said Danielle Walker, in her first year as head coach for Everest Collegiate Varsity Volleyball. “We were down two sets in the beginning, and they fought back and never quit. They never gave up and they just kept pushing. They wanted it – they wanted to walk away with that win and they weren’t going to leave without it. It just blew me away. It was just amazing how they came back and they were so resilient to finish that off.”
Leland took the first two sets, 27-25 and 25-18. The Mountaineers tied the game taking the next two sets 25-22 and 15-13.
Bradley served the last three points in the fifth set and also had 31 kills, tying for the sixth place with the most in an MHSAA Final. She also had 18 digs.
Everest went through the same thing during the semifinals the day prior against Lenawee Christian. They lost the first two sets, 25-17 and 25-18. Then, they came back to win three, 25-19, 25-16 and 15-11.
“It was so emotional,” Walker added. “It was about the journey we took to get there, coming from behind and winning both those two days in a row – Friday and Saturday, and coming out on top. It was just incredible.”
The Mountaineers repeated winning the district championship before winning the first regional championship in school history.
“It was great,” said Walker. “The girls had that goal from the get-go. They won the districts last year. This year they were really hungry for that regional title to make history, to make memories.”
The win put them against Marlette for the MHSAA Division 4 Quarterfinal 16 against Marlette, Nov. 14. The Mountaineers swept the game, 3-0, 25-17, 25-18 and 25-19.
“Just moving forward they knew their goal was just to make it as far as they could and they did it,” Walker said.
The Mountaineers finished the season with an overall 32-4-2 record and 8-0 in the Catholic High School League for first place.
“It was great,” Walker said about winning the league. “We had a couple of tough tournaments and tough matches towards the end of the season to help us prepare and get ready to go as far as we could. I thought it was great – it pushed our girls and allowed us to learn a few new things and work on some things. When I took the job back in early spring I was so blessed and excited to be with Everest. It didn’t really cross my mind we would be going all the way to states and winning states. I knew the girls were talented. I was just so happy to be there with them along the journey.”
She added the transition as new coach was smooth for her and the players.
“We jumped right in the summer with open gyms,” she said. “We had a full JV team and a full varsity team. We had lots of girls out this year. Most things were very seamless. It was very smooth. The girls are just great young women, in school, in academics, in sports. Just all around great character.”
The team graduates one senior, Caroline Beggs.
“She was a key part of our defense,” Walker said. “She was one of our DS (defensive specialist) in those last two matches. She had amazing digs to keep us alive and really great touches, too, to help set up our offense. She really played a big role in that.”
Walker shared thank you to the community.
“To the parents a thank you for being so supportive to a brand new coach and our program,” she said. “The parents were there each step of the way. Our fans were great. We had great student sections in the tournament play. The semifinal and final games we had a fan bus full of students coming to support. We had many families drive the two hours to Battle Creek on Friday and Saturday to watch and be supportive. I would like to thank those fans, parents and families supporting to us during the season and were there at the end to share that with us.”
Walker added another thank you to Clarkston Everest Collegiate Athletic Director Ann Serra and assistant coaches, Natalie Lasceski and Grace Lowney.
“Just to have our supportive athletic director and my assistant coaches to help along the way was amazing,” Walker said. “I think all of us made a great team and I was happy they were with me through this journey.”
PHOTO: Clarkston Everest Collegiate players, students, and staff celebrate winning the MHSAA Division 4 Volleyball State Championship on their first trip to the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek for the finals. Photo: Kristy Sasak