Mendon volleyball secured the Division 4 state championship for the second consecutive season with Saturday’s 3-1 victory against Leland; 25-17, 25-19, 27-29, 25-14. Additionally, the win puts the Hornets at 5-0 in volleyball title matches as they’ll add this trophy next to last year’s crown, as well as the 2001, 1999, and 1998 winners.
“It’s like being on cloud nine,” said Mendon head coach Heather Bowers, a Hornet alum who now has two state titles in two years as head coach. “These girls deserve it, they’ve worked so hard all year.”
Although a rematch of the 2018 final, both teams had many new faces in the lineup for the 2019 edition. Leland gave Mendon a tighter match than last season’s sweep, but the top-ranked Hornets persevered against the fifth-ranked Comets. Mendon had to knock out each top-five ranked team in their final four postseason wins.
“To build back from last year losing five seniors that were key players; they still have the same fight, the same attitude, and the same drive,” added Bowers.
Leland jumped out to a 4-0 score to begin the match, but the Hornets quickly regrouped with a 10-2 run in response and didn’t trail again throughout the 25-17 first set. Apart from a very brief one-point deficit, Mendon led for the entire 25-19 second set.
The Hornets opened the third set with a 6-3 lead, but the Comets answered with a 7-0 run to go ahead. Leland had their biggest advantage of the night up by six, although Mendon almost rallied for the sweep. Down 24-19, the Hornets denied five consecutive Comet set-point opportunities and had one of their own at 25-24. Leland would survive a back-and-forth exchange to eventually take the third 29-27 and force a fourth set.
“We let up a little bit, we let off the gas,” said Bowers. “Fourth game, we came out strong. We had to take care of business and we did.”
Mendon wouldn’t let Leland get close again. The Hornets scored the first point and never looked back with a 12-6 start and 13-8 finish for a 25-14 result in the fourth and final set. The final point came as a Leland serve went too long for a service error.
The Comet offense was led by Tatum Kareck’s 15 kills, followed by 13 from Gillian Grobbel and 11 by Olivia Lowe. Kareck topped the defense with 16 digs, trailed by 10 apiece from Jennifer Estrada and Mia Osorio. Leland finishes at 44-15-3 and has to be an early favorite in 2020 as Grobbel is their only graduating senior.
Mendon had 22 kills and 13 digs from Anna Smith. Taylor Heitkamp was second offensively with 12 kills. Andrea Hoffman tallied six kills and was in on six blocks. Libero Juliana Hagenbuch recorded 19 digs with 12 from Isabella Smith and nine by Payton Griffith. Setter Gracie Russell added 41 assists. The team had 11 total aces with four by Anna Smith and three via Hoffman.
The Hornets finish the season at 40-9-6 and four seniors will close their high school careers as champions: Julianna Hagenbuch, Nicole Parsons, Taylor Heitkamp, and Gracie Russell.