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Bedford tops several state quarterfinal contenders in winning Christmas Classic
By Jim Jicha
Temperance Bedford defeated seven opponents to win their own Christmas Classic title last week for the third consecutive year.
Bedford is aiming at a 16th straight trip to the final four in March and in winning their tournament they bested many of the teams likely to stand in their way.
At times they looked downright unstoppable.
Their school mascot is the Kicking Mules but a more apt nickname for the volleyball team would be Hurricanes, because that’s what their offense looks like to an opponent.
It is withering and unrelenting. No matter the rotation, tall spikers and blockers are coming at you on every play.
Bedford has many solid hitters including Kali Kuhl, Veronica Rood, Lexi Leonhard, Amy Zuccarell, Stephanie Champine and Petra Whitcraft. The first three average 6'.
And they might have another one come February in 6'0" Tara Breske, a second team all state junior recovering from ACL surgery.
With Kate Sulewski departed for Eastern Michigan, Emily Fahrer now handles the setting, but a different name is the only noticeable change in that position.
Kuhl and Whitcraft are the only seniors on this powerful team.
The Kicking Mules beat Wyandotte-Roosevelt, a likely opponent in Bedford’s regional, 25-15, 25-14 in the first pool round. The Bears, who graduated several players last year, are led by senior outside hitters Kerstin Marklein and Monica Fortuna. Coming along are sophomore setter Megan Heuer and two freshmen, middle hitter Karissa Johnson and defensive specialist Megan Fricke.
In the power pool round the Mules downed Ann Arbor Pioneer 25-9, 25-20, who has one of their best teams ever. The Pioneers are in the Tecumseh regional along with Adrian and Saline. The winner of that region will meet the Bedford winner in a state quarterfinal.
Like Bedford, Ann Arbor has only two seniors. Juniors Erica Jaffe and Cassie Petoskey are top hitters. They are helped by sophomore middle Grace Luczak, sophomore setter/hitter/sometimes digger Alicia Beckett and senior outside Amy Neff. Mary Brieschke is their leadoff server.
Bedford started the Gold championship eliminations by clipping Monroe 25-12, 25-10. Monroe is led by hitters Jessica Allera, Cassandra Kane, Richelle Bonk and Toledo Volleyball Club sophomore Megan Schatzle.
Monroe will host the district that Bedford needs to win to get to the regional.
The other Gold first round matches went three games.
Saline battled back from an 11-14 tiebreaker deficit to defeat Class B 2004 State Runner-Up Carleton Airport 25-17, 15-25, 16-14. This was the Hornets’ second victory of the day over Airport.
Senior middle Erica Adrian led Airport scoring several kills and sometimes blocking Saline’s 6’5” Texas bound Lauren Paolini. Game one was close for awhile, with Airport tying at 15 thanks to sophomore Amy Walker's great dig at the net of a Saline block that led to a kill by the Jets.
But the Hornets pulled away on kills by Jessica Duff and Carlee Greene.
Game two went to the Jets. Senior Kathleen Matkovic scored a kill to put them up 24-14 and the Hornets hit one out.
Airport flew out to an early tiebreaker advantage and led until the Hornets won on a dramatic rally at the end. Sophomore setter Theresa Jones put Airport on the cusp of victory with a nicely placed dump to make it 14-11.
But Greene started the Hornets comeback with a spike that was dug into the net. Duff scored followed with a kill and a block by Greene tied it. An errant missive by the Jets put Saline on top and Duff ended it with a kill.
Wyandotte gave Pioneer a run for their money as the Bears won game one 25-22 on an ace by Chelsea Stover. The Pioneers pulled away late in game two and won 25-20 on two kills by Jaffe.
Game three was all Ann Arbor with Jaffe and Petoskey trading kills. Petoskey also had a block and senior Jamie Brush contributed an ace in the 15-5 blitz.
Adrian outlasted Walled Lake Central 25-15, 19-25, 15-12. The Maples jumped out 15-8 in game one only to see Central narrow the score to 18-15. But Ashley Hubbard put a stop to that, crunching a cross court spike and then serving out with aces on her first and last deliveries. In between, Kelly Kohn blocked for a point and sophomore Jolyn Timms scored a kill and a block. Both blocks came against overpasses from Hubbard’s serves.
Game two saw Walled Lake break from 18-all for the win. Kelsey Rabish hit over Adrian’s block into a hole and Mariel Little blocked Hubbard. Ashley Marr scored for Adrian, but Central moved out 22-19 on two errant spikes by the Maples. A spike by Jessica Howard was lifted to make it 23-19, Little scored on a hit from back court, and when Central was caught reaching over, the match was even.
The tiebreaker saw numerous ties. Kohn hit two kills in a row to put the Maples up 8-7 and jumping jack Erika English gave Central their last lead at 11-10. With Adrian up 13-11, English spiked another kill but that was to be Central’s final point. Hubbard spiked down the line to make it 14-12 and Ashley Brainerd served up an ace for the winner.
Round two saw more close play. Bedford beat Adrian 25-17, 25-18, but in both games the Maples led early and trailed 14-13. Adrian was led offensively by Hubbard, Timms and Marr, and Kate Schalter had some great digs.
With Bedford up by six in game one, Marr blocked Champine and followed up with a kill to cut the lead to 21-17.
But Bedford slammed the door shut. Rood scored on a short set tip and, after Kuhl blocked Hubbard, Rood smashed a short set spike and blocked Timms for the game winner. Fahrer, of course, provided the sort sets and the Bedford defense did some nice passing.
Game two went much the same way with the Mules again moving out to 21-15 after a close first half. This time, it was Leonhard who scored the final two points on kills, as Rood came up with a dig on the line just before the match winner.
Saline won their semifinal by fending off Pioneer rallies. With the Hornets up 22-14 in game one Jamie Brush served a run fueled by big blocks from Petoskey and Jaffe. That made it 22-19. Saline went up 24-21 only to have Ann Arbor tie as Neff led the charge.
At that juncture, Paolini took over, smashing a short set, then blocking Petoskey for the game winner.
Game two saw Ann Arbor rally from 19-13 with Beckett contributing a kill and an ace. The Pioneers closed to 20-19 and 22-21, but clutch hitting by Hornet sophomore Kara Zawisza kept them at bay. Zawisza scored on a spike that the Pioneers dug into the net. A kill by Beckett cut the lead to 23-22, but Zawisza responded with back-to-back kills to put her team in the final.
With the championship match pitting regional favorites Bedford against Saline, fans were treated to a possible preview of one of March’s state quarterfinals.
Saline took an early 4-3 first game lead, fueled by kills from Alison Dwyer and Paolini, but after that the Mules kicked their offense into gear. Zuccarell placed a hit in the Hornets’ backcourt, Kuhl served an ace and setter Emily Fahrer scored on a heads-up hit into a hole.
Leonhard spiked a kill, Zuccarell had a kill and a block, Stephanie Champine scored twice and Petra Whitcraft came up with some nice defense including a great dig of a short set cross court spike.
In short order the Mules were on top 20-8, and after some back and forth Fahrer scored the game winner on a dump.
Bedford kept right on kicking in game two. Paolini cratered a spike to put Saline up 2-1, but after some floor repairs the Mules opened up a 9-2 margin. Saline began scoring but Bedford kept pace as the score progressed to 19-11.
With their backs headed for the wall, Saline now put on a rally.
A big rally!!
It started when Paolini cremated another short set from Melissa Mezger, and Zawisza stepped back to serve. When the spunky sophomore was done her team was ahead 20-19.
The impressive thing about this run was Bedford did nothing to help, no errant hits, touching the net or other giveaways. Saline earned every point.
Paolini scored four times on kills, Duff pounded three blasts down the left side, Dwyer added a kill and Zawisza served up an ace.
The Hornets were stellar on defense too, digging everything that Paolini and company didn’t block.
Bedford finally got a sideout when Kuhl drilled Zawisza with a spike. Saline followed with two errors, one coming after Kuhl dug a short set blast from Paolini. Zucarell crushed an overpass to put Bedford up 23-20, but now, finally, the Mules yielded a point on an errant hit.
That was just the shot the Hornets needed, as Paolini rotated to backcourt and resumed her onslaught at the service line. For starters she jump served a fiendish curve to the left that was dug out of bounds. Zawisza tied the game on a well placed two handed backcourt hit that found a hole. Paolini then served two screaming aces that sent Hornet fans abuzz.
The tiebreaker started off like it would be a real humdinger. Rood drew first blood for Bedford with a booming spike down the line. Paolini countered with a kill and block. Rood drove a spike off Paolini to tie it at 2. Rood then dug a smash by Paolini, but the future Aggie retorted with a terminating blast.
Unfortunately for those who like climactic finishes, as well as Saline fans, the Hornets stung themselves with two straight net serves and followed with three hitting errors. The Mules rolled to an 11-4 lead, and Rood soon ended the game like she started it, with another kill.
Hanover-Horton, a Class C favorite this year, beat Dearborn 24-26, 25-19, 15-9 to win the Silver bracket. Amy Golem, who led Dearborn in the match, scored a go ahead point in game one on a back court kill to make it 24-23 one and, after Hanover middle hitter Ashlynn Hamrick tied it, the Pioneers won on a kill by Miysam Bazzi and a dump from setter Roni Juszczyk.
Hanover won game two, and Hamrick took charge in the tiebreaker scoring six kills at the end, helped by Amber McKenzie’s passing. McKenzie also served six points and contributed a back row kill.
Lauren Mizerik scored the winning kill.
Hanover wound up in the Silver because all first round losers automatically went to Silver brackets. The Comets had the misfortune of drawing Saline in their opener and lost 19-25, 26-24, 11-15.
Bedford Christmas Classic - December 29, 2004
Pool Play – Round 1
Bedford def. Erie Mason 25-7, 25-5
Wyandotte Roosevelt def. Holly 25-11, 19-25, 15-11
Bedford def. Wyandotte Roosevelt 25-15, 25-14
Erie Mason def. Holly 25-27, 25-16, 17-15
Saline def. Hanover-Horton 25-19, 24-26, 15-11
Airport def. Dearborn 22-25, 25-21, 15-13
Saline def. Airport 25-23, 25-16
Hanover-Horton def. Dearborn 25-19, 25-19
Walled Lake Central def. Dexter 26-28, 25-20, 15-4
Monroe def. Jackson Northwest 25-23, 25-21
Walled Lake Central def. Monroe 27-25, 25-21
Dexter def. Jackson Northwest 25-22, 25-20
Adrian def. St. Mary Catholic Central 25-22, 25-20
Ann Arbor Pioneer def. Haslett 25-14, 25-20
Adrian def. Ann Arbor Pioneer 23-25, 25-20, 15-8
St. Mary Catholic Central def. Haslett 26-24, 25-11
Pool Play – Round 2
Bedford def. Airport 25-9, 25-15
Ann Arbor Pioneer def. Walled Lake Central 25-23, 25-19
Bedford def. Ann Arbor Pioneer 25-9, 25-20
Walled Lake Central def. Airport 25-15, 25-15
Saline def. Wyandotte Roosevelt 25-21, 25-16
Adrian def. Monroe 25-11, 25-22
Saline def. Adrian 25-18, 19-25, 15-13
Wyandotte Roosevelt def. Monroe 25-18, 25-22
Dearborn def. Mason 25-8, 25-20
Dexter def. Haslett 25-22, 15-25, 15-11
Dearborn def. Dexter 25-13, 25-13
Haslett def. Mason 25-23, 25-23
Hanover-Horton def. Holly 25-21, 25-6
Jackson Northwest def. St. Mary Catholic Central 17-25, 25-20, 15-10
Hanover-Horton def. Jackson Northwest 25-7, 25-16
St. Mary Catholic Central def. Holly 25-20, 26-24
Finals – Round 3
Bedford def. Monroe 25-10, 25-12
Adrian def. Walled Lake Central 25-15, 19-25, 15-12
Ann Arbor Pioneer def. Wyandotte Roosevelt 22-25, 25-20, 15-5
Saline def. Airport 25-17, 15-25, 16-14
Bedford def. Adrian 25-17, 25-18
Saline def. Ann Arbor Pioneer 26-24, 25-22
Bedford def. Saline 25-14, 23-25, 15-6
Dearborn def. Jackson Northwest 25-9, 25-12
Hanover-Horton def. Dexter 25-18, 25-14
Hanover-Horton def. Dearborn 24-26, 25-19, 15-9