LANSING — Coming into the season, Lansing Catholic volleyball coach Ryan Miller believed he had the pieces on his team to reach new heights.
The Cougars vindicated their coach’s early-season sentiments on Wednesday night.
With a three-set victory over Fowlerville, the Cougars (15-13-3, 8-0) earned at least a share of their first conference championship in school history.
“It’s been a long process,” said Miller, who only has three seniors on his team. “We just had to keep our eye on the ball and realize we were going to make mistakes along the way.
“At the beginning, we said this is going to come down to team leadership and the ability to fight through tough situations. And a lot of times we have.”
Lansing Catholic can win the CAAC White outright by winning one of its final three league games, as the teams behind them have three losses.
“It’s pretty amazing,” junior Olivia Poupard said. “Our coach has worked really hard for the past four years to get us to this point. It’s a good accomplishment that we could do this for him and our school.
“We just have to keep pushing and doing our best.”
The Cougars showed flashes of their best in the first set of the conference matchup. With a 3-1 lead, senior Chloe Miller recorded the match’s first ace and jumpstarted a 9-2 Lansing Catholic run. Poupard recorded three consecutive aces in the set, which the Cougars went on to win 25-13. Poupard along with classmate Kasi Kirkpatrick had a game-high three aces.
However, the second set was a back-and-forth contest. The Gladiators (16-15-1, 4-4) started with a 9-6 lead before Lansing Catholic went on a 4-1 run to take control. There were seven lead changes in Game 2, but it was the Cougars who ended the game on a 10-1 run to win the set 25-15.
“We’ve noticed in the first game that we can blow teams out of the water,” said Poupard, who also had a game-high 12 kills. “In the second and third games we can fall inconsistent at times. We’ve been trying to fix that.”
Fowlerville didn’t go out without a fight. Freshman Lea Ash and senior Megan Kiefer, who both had five kills, stepped up for the Gladiators in the third set and helped their team battle back down the stretch. Lansing Catholic had Fowlerville on the ropes with a 23-16 lead, but the Gladiators remained poised and rallied back to make the score 24-23. But an out-of-bounds serve with the set, and match, on the line gave the Cougars a 25-23 win.
“We’ve been fighting all year with hitters, our hitters have kind of been on and off, and I’ve been mixing it up a little bit,” Fowlerville coach Michelle Hardenbrook said. “We’ve always been a strong defensive and serving team, so that’s what I really pride in our team.
“I knew (Lansing Catholic) would come out strong and be a good hitting team, so I thought if we could come out and at least take a couple of games from them that would be something that would be positive. We’re going to see them in districts, hopefully, and that would be a good confidence booster for us.”
Senior Maddie Maloney had eight kills and sophomore Becka Poljan had six kills for the Cougars. The Gladiators’ Paige Temple had 18 assists and Sara Domine had 15 digs.
Contact James L. Edwards III at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.