ANN ARBOR – Few local high school programs have had as much consistent success at the state level as Bedford volleyball but the Mules ran into a buzz saw on Tuesday night.
The perennially powerful Mules saw their season come to an end at the hands of two-time defending state champion Novi in the Class A state quarterfinals.
Led by a trio of Division I college recruits, Novi dropped the Mules three sets to none at Huron High School. The Wildcats topped Bedford 25-10, 25-18, and 25-17.
It was the second year in a row that Bedford (62-7-2) had reached the state quarterfinals. It also was the 24th time Bedford has advanced to this point in the tournament under longtime coach Jodi Manore, who has won three state championships (1998, 2001, 2005) with five state runner-up finishes.
Bedford senior outside hitter Heidi Fausze finished with a team-high 12 kills. Fausze, who will play next season at Eastern Michigan University, also had 21 digs.
Junior setter Levi Lennard led Bedford with 23 assists. Sophomore Alyssa Griner finished with seven kills. Defensive specialist Breeanna Long had 21 digs.
But Bedford had trouble containing Novi senior hitter Abryanna Cannon, who has committed to play at Northwestern, throughout the match. Cannon finished with a match-high 17 kills.
Novi's setter, University of Michigan recruit Erin O'Leary, was named the 2017 Michigan Miss Volleyball award winner on Monday. O'Leary finished with a match-high 33 assists.
Senior Kathryn Ellison, who will play at Kent State University, led Novi with 19 digs and added 13 kills.
No. 2 ranked Novi (55-3) is gunning for a third straight state title.
“They are very talented and they played like they weren't taking anything for granted,” Manore said. “They played us hard because of the name on our back. They out-hustled us.”
Novi coach Jen Cottrill, who was named the state's coach of the year, said her team had extra motivation after losing to Bedford earlier this season.
“We were very respectful of Jodi and the Bedford program and their tradition,” Cottrill said. “Experience is a big deal and we've been in these matches and understand the gravity of it. We're senior led and we managed Bedford's runs.”
In the first set, Bedford came out a bit uneasy and committed uncharacteristic, unforced errors. Yet the Mules tied the match at 3-3 on back-to-back kills from MacKenzie Fuleky and Fausze, who said her team dug holes in each set by making mistakes.
“We could have gone a little more all out. We just couldn't get a run,” Fausze said. “We weren't doing the little things well. We had a good student section and they were very loud. But in the end they were the better team.”
Novi then went on a 7-0 run to seize control. Carly Emerson then had a kill for the Mules to make it 20-10. But Bedford made too many mistakes in the opening set and could not get back into it. Cannon got her team rolling in the opening set with four kills in the early going.
Bedford showed great resolve in the second set after falling behind 16-9. The Mules reeled off as 5-0 run to close within two points at 16-14. Paige Anstine served five straight points, including an ace, during the surge.
Lennard and Taylor Weirich then teamed for a Bedford block as the Mules came within a point at 18-17. However, Novi finished it off with a 7-1 run.
“It seemed like every time we had a good play, we [made an error] and you can't do that,” Manore said. “It's very frustrating. Our hitting percentage improved [in the final two sets]. But they stepped it up. They were not letting up. They were going to win in three.”
The Mules then fell behind 17-8 in the third set before charging back with a 4-0 run. Fausze had consecutive kills during the spurt that made it 17-12. Bedford then once again was within five points at 20-15. But Novi would not be denied.
Manore took five timeouts at various points in the match to attempt to stem the tide. Manore, who has coached at Bedford since 1979, became the nation's winningest coach last fall.
Bedford had handed Novi one of its three losses on Sept. 4 in a tournament. But the Wildcats were playing without both Cannon and Ellison on that day.
“We've had a great season,” Manore said. “We will instill lessons from this.”
Fausze credited Manore for helping her improve.
“I remember in junior high and wanting to be like [the varsity players],” Fausze said. “And she helped me become like them.”
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