BATTLE CREEK >> After demolishing each opponent it had faced in the postseason, the Notre Dame Prep volleyball team was finally tested in the Class B state championship by Lakewood.
However, the Irish passed the test with flying colors, picking up a three-set win over the Vikings to claim their first state championship since 2013, 25-16, 25-17, 28-26.
“The nerves got to us a little bit. We got frozen a few times and got caught watching the game. We knew (Lakewood) wanted this bad as the runner-up last year and we just had to lock in and finish,” Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wroubel said. “Our girls did that and came through when the pressure was on.”
The Irish were allowing just 12 points per set throughout the postseason, but Lakewood’s experience on this stage a year ago allowed the Vikings to stay competitive throughout.
“Lakewood is a tremendous team. Right from the get-go we were worried about what Lakewood could bring because they have so many looks,” Wroubel said. “If you are not paying attention, what is open on the first play isn’t open the next. I give our kids a lot of credit for staying focused and finding the open shots.”
While Notre Dame took the first two sets by comfortable margins, the Vikings fought back hard in the third set. The Irish had three championship points come up empty before junior Natalie Risi recorded the final two kills of the match to give ND Prep the win.
“It was a relief,” junior Madeline Chinn said of seeing the final point occur. “I know we have all been working so hard this season to get to this point. I am so proud of my team for how hard we all have worked to get this championship.”
Risi finished with a match-high 17 kills while senior middle Gabrielle Shilling had 12. Chinn recorded seven kills and seven digs while senior Lauren Burnick had 42 assists.
The Irish finish the season on a 43-match winning streak to finish the season at 64-2-2. The 64 wins is a school record.
“I don’t think we ever thought it was inevitable, but we knew it was obtainable,” Wroubel said of winning the championship. “We are a very grounded team. We could have been (in Battle Creek) a few other times, but we lost our focus. We didn’t want that to happen this time around and the girls really stayed focused on that. That’s a credit to our senior leaders.”