It’s not an easy challenge to pick the best volleyball players in Oakland County.
Each year there are many talented players that have earned recognition as some of the best in the state.
The 2015 season was no different as players around the County led their team to All-State and All-Region honors. Some even led their team to a state championship.
Here is a look at those that were just a cut above the rest, making up our All-County first team.
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Player of the Year
Victoria Iacobelli, Sr. Novi
A year ago, it seemed like a pretty good assumption that Romeo’s Gia Milana would be the 2015 Miss Volleyball winner. While Milana did take home the award this fall, Iacobelli certainly made a strong case for it.
The senior, six-rotation player was steady in all areas of the game while leading Novi to its first ever Class A state championship, with the Wildcats downing Milana and the Bulldogs in the championship contest.
Iacobelli was second in the Miss Volleyball voting after tallying a total of 531 kills in 2015 while hitting .401 on her attacks. She also had 487 digs and 81 aces, which earned her first team All-State honors.
“Victoria's leadership was one of doing by example and holding our team accountable. Her teammates had so much respect for her because what she demanded from them, she did on a consistent basis,” Novi coach Jennifer Cottrill said of Iacobelli. “Every time we stepped on the court, we could rely on her to compete and execute. She never took a play off and never had a bad game or match. She was so unbelievably reliable.”
Iacobelli and the Wildcats had plenty of pressure to cope with this season after finishing runner-up in 2014. With the majority of the roster back in 2015, many were expecting a possible championship and it was on the shoulders of Iacobelli to lead them to that title.
“At the beginning of the season, I could see that Victoria was playing very tense and stressed. She knew after our team and her individual success last season, as well as her Miss Volleyball nomination, that we were relying on her tremendously,” Cottrill said. “She understandably felt a lot of pressure to perform. After a few conversations together, we were able to work through what she was feeling and she really loosened up on the court. She became less fearful of making a mistake and used her prior success and experience to help her by giving her confidence. She just started to smile a bit more and have fun with her teammates.”
Along with ending her Novi career with a state championship, Iacobelli finished with a total of 1,515 kills, 203 aces and 1,645 digs as a Wildcat, all of which are school records.
Courtney Wightman, Sr. Lake Orion
Making the jump from Class D to Class A didn’t seem to bother Wightman at all, as she immediately stepped in at Lake Orion and was the driving force of the Dragons’ attack. An All-County pick last year with Waterford Our Lady, Wightman earns the honor with the Dragons this year after totaling 398 kills while hitting .346 on her attacks. She was a first team All-State pick for the OAA Red co-champions and was a finalist for Miss Volleyball.
“Courtney was a very strong go-to hitter for us this year as well as a highly-skilled passer,” Lake Orion coach Tony Scavarda said. “She has a knack for finding openings in the defense to get kills. She brought a lot of confidence and experience to our team this year.”
Abbey Malinowski, Soph. Clarkston
Malinowski could be listed under outside hitter or setter. She was a tremendous forces as both for Clarkston this season. In 2015, she had a total of 495 kills while hitting .309 on her attacks. She also had 491 assists with 347 digs and 65 blocks. A second team All-State selection, Malinowski is certainly going to be a force for the Wolves for a few more seasons to come.
“Abbey is such a great athlete and volleyball player, that she was able to help us out as both a setter and outside hitter,” Clarkston coach Kelly Pinner said. “She led her team in kills and hitting efficiency and co-led in aces. She is a very smart player and is passionate about competing and making her team better. This young lady is going to be fun to watch over the next two seasons.”
Ally Cummings, Jr. Novi
Looking for another outside hitter to compliment Victoria and Paulina Iacobelli this season, the Wildcats got all they could ask for from Cummings. She was named second team All-State for the 2015 season after tallying 398 kills while hitting .412 on her attacks. She also had 256 digs and 75 blocks. She will certainly be the go-to outside hitter for the team in 2016.
“Ally's development into one of the most efficient and powerful attackers in the state has been impressive. Her ability to terminate at a very high rate was the key to our success this season,” Cottrill said of Cummings. “We could always rely on her to put balls away as well as defend the opponent’s best attackers. She is an intense competitor and tremendous teammate.”
Kate Carey, Sr. Birmingham Seaholm
One of the many hitting options the Maples had this season was Carey, who made her attacks count. The senior hit .432 this season while totaling 299 kills. She also added 79 blocks and 15 aces while earning second team All-State honors while leading Seaholm to a share of the OAA Red championship.
“This season was Kate's standout year. Every year Kate has come into the season better than the last. This year she dominated offensively and put up a giant block,” Seaholm coach Heather Lippert said. “She serves as one of our four captains and did a great job mentoring the younger girls. Seaholm volleyball would not be the same with Kate Carey being a part of it. She brings intensity, passion, laughter, and long limbs and will be forever a Maple.”
Lauren McLeod, Sr. Birmingham Seaholm
McLeod was one of the top middle hitters in all of the state and her efforts in 2015 led the Maples to a share of the OAA Red championship. More than just a hitter and blocker at the net, McLeod had 199 digs to go along with 247 kills, 85 blocks and 37 aces. She was a first team All-State pick this season.
“This season Lauren was asked to do it all. We needed her to pass in addition to her other job as being a middle attacker. She finished the season with the second-highest serve receive average and was second-highest in digs,” Lippert said. “Lauren has been a tremendous leader on and off the court and has really made her mark on the Seaholm volleyball program. We will miss more than just Lauren's talent next year, we will miss the person that Lauren is.”
Rebekah Collier, Sr. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes
The Lakers needed a hitter to step up this season if they were going to continue to be a force in Class D and Collier was able to answer that challenge. She had 259 kills in 2015 to go with 82 blocks and 41 aces. Collier’s efforts kept WOLL ranked in Class D throughout the year. She was named second team All-State for her play.
“Rebekah confidently stepped into the role as one of the captains on our team. She was a very vocal leader during practice and worked hard to help push her teammates,” WOLL coach Stephanie Swearingen said. “She intimidated other teams with her size, quick hits and strong blocks. She has a great future in volleyball.”
Erin O’Leary, Soph. Novi
Another first team All-State selection for the Wildcats, O’Leary was the only non-senior captain for Novi this season. An aggressive setter, O’Leary finished the 2015 season with 1,371 assists, 225 kills, 321 digs and 86 aces. With the loss of three senior captains to graduation, O’Leary has established herself as the future leader of the program.
“Erin is such an impressive setter because she possess both the elite-level skill set as well as all of the intangibles of a stellar athlete,” Cottrill said of her setter. “Erin continually amazed me with her ability to make a bad pass look good, get her attackers in a great position to score, keep our opponents guessing, attack at the net as well as serve and defend efficiently in the back row. Erin always stays calm, no matter the score or situation, and just plays the game. A humble, mature young leader who is a pleasure to coach and be around.”
Alexa Tomlak, Sr. Stoney Creek
Stoney Creek wasn’t among the expected favorites to win the OAA Red this season, but the Cougars earned a share of the title in 2015 and Tomlak was a big reason why. She had 1,037 assists, 231 digs, 100 kills and 46 blocks for Stoney Creek while earning second team All-State honors, becoming the first Stoney Creek volleyball player to do so. She also holds the school record in assists in a match, season and career.
“Alexa is a huge reason why our team was so successful this year,” Stoney Creek coach Amanda Moran said. “She is a very smart volleyball player and understands the game at such a high level. She has great court vision and continually put our hitters in one-on-one situations, which allowed them to be successful. Alexa leaves the program as one of, if not the most, decorated volleyball players in Stoney Creek history. Her composed leadership will be missed.”
Emma Kowalkowski, Sr. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Another Miss Volleyball finalist in Oakland County, Kowalkowski stepped up into a leadership role for the Irish while continuing her strong play. She tallied a state-best 1,028 digs in 2015 and also had 368 service points with 101 aces. She also contributed 104 assists and 90 kills, showing her all-around abilities. Kowalkowski was a first team All-State selection.
“Emma had a fantastic year. She led our team not only in many stat columns, but as a true leader,” Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wroubel said. “Emma was a strong and stead player for us and often times carried our team. I am not sure that I have ever seen a defender defend as well as Kowalkowski has for us. With over half of our team new to varsity ball, including three frosh and one sophomore starter, someone had to be the glue, the go-to player, the rock, and Emma was all of that and more. Emma is among the most difficult players that we have ever had to replace and we have had some pretty good players represent the green and gold over the years. Irish volleyball will not be the same without her.”
Kori Varney, Sr. Lake Orion
Lake Orion had plenty of power at the net this season but Varney was the strength of the defense that really helped the Dragons earn a share of the OAA Red title. The senior had 637 digs and 66 aces in 2015 to earn first team All-State honors and make the county team for the second straight season.
“Kori improved in all areas this season and she was already one of the best libero’s in the state last year,” Scavarda said. “She defended a large amount of court for us and was a consistent passer all season long.”
Coach of the year
Jennifer Cottrill, Novi
Faced with a lot of pressure to win the state championship in 2015, Cottrill had a great approach for her Novi team this season. The 2014 season wasn’t a reason for the Wildcats to be over confident or assume success. Cottrill had her team focus on each week, each game and each point as opposed to thinking about what could come at the end of the year. By the time the postseason came around, Novi was playing loose and playing its best, making the postseason seem like a three-week championship parade for the Wildcats.
MIPrepzone.com, December 13, 2015