Second-ranked Marian accomplished a big goal on Thursday by beating rival and defending champ, top-ranked Mercy, in the regional final. The question now for the Mustangs is can they move past that emotional win and handle being the team with the target on its back? Ava BrizardAvaBrizard6'0" | OHMarian | 2022StateMIhas picked up her game and intensity level this year, clearly establishing herself as one of the best in the state. Marian is loaded with young talent, but still very experienced. No. 15 Dakota knows it has an uphill climb
We’ve made it to championship week.
It’s been a mentally trying season and unfortunately, we have seen teams have their season end out of their control.
Let’s hope for a safe and healthy week so the state championships can be decided on the court in Battle Creek.
Division 1 has seen some great action so far and this year’s Elite Eight is full of talented players and intriguing storylines.
Here’s a closer look at each of the four quarterfinal matchups on Tuesday.
Related: Division 2 Quarterfinals Predictions
Marian vs. Dakota at St. Clair County CC
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Second-ranked Marian accomplished a big goal on Thursday by beating rival and defending champ, top-ranked Mercy, in the regional final. The question now for the Mustangs is can they move past that emotional win and handle being the team with the target on its back? Ava BrizardAvaBrizard6'0" | OHMarian | 2022StateMI has picked up her game and intensity level this year, clearly establishing herself as one of the best in the state. Marian is loaded with young talent, but still very experienced. No. 15 Dakota knows it has an uphill climb ahead, but the Cougars are riding high after their first regional title since 2012. Defense has been a big strength in this postseason and the Cougars will need that against hard-hitting Marian. Ultimately, Marian has been playing as well as anyone in the state for the last month and I expect that to continue. The Mustangs will continue to perform and advance to Battle Creek.
Prediction: Marian over Dakota in three
Grand Blanc vs. Clarkston at Lapeer
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Our 12th-ranked team in Division 1 entering the postseason has been playing much more like a top-5 team the past two weeks. Clarkston has found that next gear and it showed in a sweep of No. 3 Eisenhower in the regional final. The Wolves have great balance all-around, from the hitting to the defense to the serving. Claire NowickiClaireNowicki6'0" | OHClarkston | 2021StateMI and Sydney Hasenfratz have been great senior leaders and have the Wolves believing they can run to the title. Grand Blanc had a tough five-set battle with TC West in the regional final. It was the first regional championship for the Bobcats in program history. Remi MadisonRemiMadison5'9" | OHGrand Blanc | 2023StateMI is proving to be one of the top sophomores performers this year. She’s got a big swing and an improving passing game. However, Grand Blanc is going to need a total team effort to get points on Clarkston. The Wolves have just been too fundamentally sound to drop this one.
Prediction: Clarkston over Grand Blanc in three
Lowell vs. Portage Central at Gull Lake
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There was a time that No. 5 Lowell looked as if it was slipping, but the Red Arrows have turned it up in the postseason. That was made even more clear with sweeps over No. 4 Byron Center and No. 6 Rockford during regional play. I don’t know that there is a more valuable player to her team in the state than Jenna ReitsmaJennaReitsma5'11" | OHLowell | 2021StateMI. She has 834 kills on the season and has taken over 1,350 swing than anyone else on the Lowell roster this season. Reitsma is a finisher and a poised leader. Portage Central slipped under the rankings entering the postseason, but the Mustangs have strung up wins over the likes of No. 25 Mattawan, Portage Northern and No. 24 DeWitt the last two weeks. The five-set win over DeWitt showed the Mustangs resolve. Portage Central has veteran hitters in Jordan MacDonaldJordanMacDonald5'10" | OHPortage Central | 2021StateMI, Madison Dorf and Elise EichmanEliseEichman5'9" | SPortage Central | 2021MI, but the Mustangs will have to be strong defensively to stop Reitsma and the Arrows.
Prediction: Lowell over Portage Central in three
Ann Arbor Skyline vs. Novi at Lincoln Art & Recreation
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Perhaps the most competitive D1 quarterfinal on paper. Skyline was No. 7 in our final rankings while Novi was No. 9. Skyline made a run to the D1 semifinals last year. The Eagles got a bye into the quarterfinals when No. 20 Temperance Bedford had to unfortunately forfeit. Skyline had to beat a strong 10th-ranked Saline team in the districts and the Eagles have sophomore Harper MurrayHarperMurray6'2" | OHSkyline | 2023StateMI, who only improves her stock nationally with each match. Murray can do it all and will be the most impactful player on the court against Novi. The Wildcats have been flying under the radar all season, but seemingly many saw this quarterfinal run coming. Novi had to win a big district opener against No. 13 Northville in five sets, and the Wildcats haven’t dropped a set since. The strength of Novi is their balance. They have a wide array of hitters, a solid setter in junior Rachel KarrRachelKarrRSNovi | 2022MI, and arguably the top libero in the state in Rachel JenningsRachelJennings5'9" | LNovi | 2021StateMI. As strong as Murray is, I like Novi’s overall supporting cast. The Wildcats can find a hot hand and use their strong defense to grind this one out.
Prediction: Novi over Skyline in five