That will be the challenge again for the Irish, finding a way to limit the damage of the O’Gorman sisters. When the two met during the season for a two-set contest that Lakewood won, Aubrey hit .550. Things are different now, but it is clear that
I’m not sure there’s a more challenging bracket remaining in the state than Division 2.
The field features the two-time defending state champs, two programs that are consistently part of the festivities at Battle Creek, as well as a program making its first trip in four years.
I am really excited to see the action in Thursday’s semifinals between these four programs. It should be a high level of play.
Here’s a breakdown of the two contests.
Notre Dame Prep vs. Lakewood – Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
[player_tooltip player_id="14185" first="Aubrey" last="O’Gorman"]
These two met in last year’s state semifinal, with Lakewood grabbing a four-set victory over Notre Dame Prep. The Irish struggled, as many do, with the size of Aubrey O’GormanAubreyO’Gorman6'3" | MBLakewood | 2021StateMI and Maradith O’GormanMaradithO’Gorman6'2" | RSLakewood | 2022StateMI. The sisters combined for 48 of Lakewood’s 61 kills. Aubrey hit .511 in the victory.
That will be the challenge again for the Irish, finding a way to limit the damage of the O’Gorman sisters. When the two met during the season for a two-set contest that Lakewood won, Aubrey hit .550. Things are different now, but it is clear that 6’4” Aubrey and 6’2” Maradith will be a big hurdle for an Irish team that lacks in length. What helps make the O’Gorman sisters play at such a high level is sophomore setter Skylar BumpSkylarBump5'7" | SLakewood | 2023StateMI. She has raised her game and is already a veteran setter at a young age. Defensively, Lakewood will be tested to play at the level that Notre Dame can in the back row. Freshman Carley PiercefieldCarleyPiercefield5'4" | DS/LLakewood | 2024StateMI has been outstanding thus far, but this will be the biggest stage for her yet this season. For the Vikings to win, she has to take her game to another level.
Notre Dame Prep is about as balanced a team as it gets. The Irish are solid in every position. While they don’t have the size of their opponents, they play with tremendous fundamentals and have a number of impact players. What’s been their foundation the past two seasons is their defensive play. Olivia KowalkowskiOliviaKowalkowski5'4" | DS/LNotre Dame Prep | 2021StateMI is a fourth-year libero that has the honor of making her fourth trip to Battle Creek. Josie BloomJosieBloom5'6" | DS/LNotre Dame Prep | 2022StateMI is one of the top defensive players in the Class of 2022 as well, giving the team tremendous play out of the back row. Offensively, Alyssa BorellisAlyssaBorellis5'11" | SNotre Dame Prep | 2022StateMI is their do-everything talent that can hit, set and defend. She’s truly a complete player. Bianca Gigilo and Sophia Sudzina are also capable of taking over a match, while Margo Sudzina is a great sophomore setter that handles the position alongside Borellis.
The two-month layoff didn’t appear to rattle either of these teams as they handled their quarterfinals quite easily. This match will be different. Each team is likely to face some adversity along the way and the team that handles it best is likely to win. It’s hard to ignore the size of Lakewood in this matchup. The O’Gorman sisters are so difficult to deal with, because they are so multi-talented for their length. The Irish just don’t have the size to consistently block them, and will be challenged to hit around them. I think that will ultimately lead Lakewood to the victory.
Prediction: Lakewood over Notre Dame Prep in five
Grand Rapids Christian vs. Cadillac – Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
The two-time defending Division 2 champs draw Cadillac in the second semifinal on Thursday. The Vikings are making their first trip to Battle Creek since 2016.
Cadillac had quite an emotional match on Tuesday, as the Vikings fell behind two sets to Birch Run before rallying to take the final three sets. Cadillac has been heavily powered behind senior outside hitter Macy BrownMacyBrown5'10" | OHCadillac | 2021StateMI. She is approaching 1,000 kills for the season, a mark only three players have hit in MHSAA history. Renee BrinesReneeBrines5'9" | SCadillac | 2022StateMI has great chemistry with Brown as the team’s setter. She’s also an aggressive player in her own right, as she sits second on the team in kills. Defensively, Julia Jezak is an All-Region libero to give Cadillac standout play at three key places. The passing and serve receive of Cadillac will be crucial on Thursday, as the Vikings are going to face one of the top attacks in the state.
Grand Rapids Christian didn’t miss a beat in its quarterfinal on Tuesday, allowing just 34 points over three sets to Edwardsburg. Addie VanderWeideAddieVanderWeide6'1" | OHGrand Rapids Christian | 2021StateMI consistently plays at the highest level and was third in Miss Volleyball voting. She’s got all the tools to take over a match, but also is a great teammate that makes everyone around her better. Evie Doezema is in the same boat. She’d be a one-woman wrecking crew on most teams as a 6’3” athletic outside, but is just part of the deep attack that the Eagles have. Alyssa DeVries has stepped in very well at setter. The junior had big shoes to fill, replacing Jordyn GatesJordynGates6'3" | SGR Christian | 2020StateMI, but she has found her own footing and has the GRC offense running very efficiently. Defensively, Lauren PealLaurenPeal5'10" | DS/LGrand Rapids Christian | 2021StateMI has quietly went about her business as one of the best liberos in the state. The GRC offense wouldn’t be as strong as it is without Peal making the plays she makes to keep the offense in-system.
Cadillac is a great team and Brown is as good as they come, but it’s the reliance on her to produce at the amount she does that I think will be an issue on Thursday night. Grand Rapids Christian can hit you from all sorts of ways and the Eagles will be very prepared to defend Brown and limit the damage she does. Cadillac is going to need some others to rise to the occasion. The Eagles simply just need to stick to their game plan and continue to use their depth to win.
Prediction: Grand Rapids Christian over Cadillac in three