The 2020 Division 1 final four was a tremendous collection of talent, many of whom are going to do big things at the college level.
The semifinals saw a pair of five-set classics before a young Marian squad went on to win the championship over Lowell in the finals.
All four semifinal teams will bring some strong names back for 2021, but each will come into the year with some questions to answer about themselves.
Here’s a look at the four squads and what they will be working with in 2021.
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The Mustangs have to be feeling pretty good going into the 2021 season as it didn’t graduate a single player from its championship roster of 2020. That means that coach Mayssa Cook has a veteran roster that should have tremendous chemistry right from the start. Marian has a wealth of hitting talent, led by Ava BrizardAvaBrizard6'0" | OHMarian | 2022StateMI, our 2020 D1 Player of the Year as a junior. She hit .395 last season and approached 600 kills. Along with Brizard, Sophia TrederSophiaTreder6'0" | OHMarian | 2022StateMI (2022) and Ella SchomerEllaSchomer6'0" | RSMarian | 2023StateMI (2023) are great compliments on the outside. In the middle, Sarah SylvesterSarahSylvester6'3" | MBMarian | 2022StateMI (2022) and Reagan SassReaganSass5'10" | OHMarian | 2023StateMI (2023) showed a lot, and the Mustangs still have 6’2” Janiah JonesJaniahJones6'1" | MBMarian | 2022StateMI (2022) and 6’3” McKenzie Swanson (2024) to work with. That’s a lot of options for 2023 setter Ava SarafaAvaSarafa6'0" | SMarian | 2023StateMI, who is coming off a great last 12 months to really elevate her game. Defensively, 2023 libero Lauren HemingLaurenHeming5'6" | DS/LMarian | 2023StateMI has proven she can hang with anyone. Marian doesn’t really have any questions other than how it will handle being the defending champion and clear favorite for 2021.
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The Red Arrows had a strange year to get back to a final for the second consecutive season, but Lowell finds itself entering 2021 with a lot of question marks. The program loses its foundation in outside hitter Jenna ReitsmaJennaReitsma5'11" | OHLowell | 2021StateMI. Here competitiveness and performance on the court was unmatched. She finished just shy of 900 kills in 2021 while taking over 2,100 swings. This year, it will likely have to be a committee trying to fill in that void. Sydney Zandstra (2022) saw a lot of action last year and could slide into the primary outside spot. Lowell is likely to turn to its middles to step up this year. Emily StruckmeyerEmilyStruckmeyer6'1" | MBLowell | 2022StateMI (2022) is an All-State middle that is back while Aubriegh Oswald (2023) had a promising freshman season before an injury sidelined her for all of 2020. Along with the loss of Reitsma, Sophie Powell is gone as the team’s reliable setter. She made the offense go and was a big part of Reitsma’s success as well. It doesn’t get much easier defensively, as Emma HallEmmaHall5'11" | DS/LLowell | 2021StateMI graduated at libero. Kelsey Stephens (2022) saw some consistent play in the back row last year while Kadence Tiede (2023) and Ashley PowellAshleyPowell5'7" | OHLowell | 2024MI (2024) showed some potential in their limited opportunities.
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The Wolves used a veteran group to get to Kellogg Arena, where it play Marian to a five-set classic in the semifinal. Coming into 2021, Clarkston has some big holes to fill and none are bigger than at the top. Head coach Kelly Pinner elected to step down to spend more time with family after picking up over 680 wins in her coaching career. Ali Smith takes over the Wolves’ roster looking to continue the team’s strong play in the OAA Red. She comes from Mt. Pleasant, where she led the Oilers to a quarterfinals appearance in 2019. Along with the loss of Pinner, Clarkston graduated four very productive seniors in Claire NowickiClaireNowicki6'0" | OHClarkston | 2021StateMI, Sydney Hasenfratz, Shay Bordine and Madison McGraw. Nowicki was a cornerstone player and six-rotation outside that impacted every aspect of the game. That role likely turns to 2023 outside Paige GiehtbrockPaigeGiehtbrock6'0" | OHClarkston | 2023StateMI. She made big strides in her sophomore season and proved she can take on a bigger role. In the middle, Elizabeth AdamsElizabethAdams6'2" | MBClarkston | 2022StateMI (2022) really came on strong at the end of the 2021 season and has built on that with a big club year. This is Adams’ chance to really break out. Though Bordine was a setter for Clarkston, the Wolves ran with two and Emery KueblerEmeryKuebler5'7" | SClarkston | 2024MI is back for her sophomore season. Clarkston should remain very strong on defense behind libero Summer JidasSummerJidas5'5" | DS/LClarkston | 2022StateMI (2022), along with defenders Kiley GallagherKileyGallagher5'5" | DS/LClarkston | 2024StateMI (2024) and (2022.
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The Wildcats made the climb back to Kellogg Arena and nearly reached the final, playing a great five-set battle with Lowell in the semis. Novi graduates seven from that semifinal squad, but will still have some major impact pieces for fourth-year coach Kacy Byron. Novi loses three of its top five hitters, but Sarah VellucciSarahVellucci5'11" | OHNovi | 2023StateMI (2023) is back as a six-rotation option. Vellucci has shown the ability to finish points, but is emerging as an elite passer following the 2021 club season where she has been the libero for Legacy 16-1 ADIDAS. Rachel KarrRachelKarrRSNovi | 2022StateMI (2022) is back at setter, but is an aggressive player in her role and can finish points on her own. She will definitely have to develop new hitters and find chemistry with them, but has the skillset to handle that challenge. Rachel JenningsRachelJennings5'9" | DS/LNovi | 2021StateMI was the state’s top libero in the Class of 2021, but she’s now gone, leaving another hole for Novi to fill. The Wildcats look to have adressed that with 2023 defender Kaitlyn HoffmanKaitlynHoffman5'8" | DS/LNovi | 2023StateMI, who transferred from Clarkston and is one of the top libero’s in the state. 2022’s Sarah CalanchiSarahCalanchi5'1" | DS/LNovi | 2022MI also had some experience last fall in the back row that can be utilized.