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'It's finally here,' North Branch is off to volleyball State Finals

The North Branch volleyball team is “finally” off to Battle Creek.

“It feels good. This is everything we’ve worked for since the beginning, so to finally get here is really exciting,” junior Alana Deshetsky said.

North Branch senior Bailey Gormley celebrates after a point in Tuesday's quarterfinal match against Mt. Morris.

The Broncos played in last year’s Division 2 State Championship where they finished as runner-up in the tournament. This year, as head coach Jim Fish said, “they’re ready to finish the deal.” And after winning last night’s quarterfinal 3-0 over Mt. Morris, they’re one step closer.

“I’m so excited that it’s finally here. We’ve been working since August to get here, so now that it’s finally here, it’s exciting,” junior Hailey Green said. “Yes it’s waiting, but we’re also working every game to get to this point, so there’s still a goal in every game to win and even if it’s a team that’s not as competitive, we’re working on certain things to get better for this.”

They started their season as soon as they could on midnight on Aug. 8. They played 52 regular-season matches and watched countless hours of film, and they’ve done just as much work off the court with mental strength training. Now it’s finally paying off.

Their road hasn’t exactly been easy. In the district semifinal, North Branch battled to five against 10th-ranked Imlay City en route to its 18th-straight district title. Then in the regional final, the Broncos were tasked with defeating Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, a team they had lost to in the postseason for last five years.

And even though they swept Mt. Morris last night, they had to adjust to a different style of play.

“We always get teams’ best games,” Deshetsky said. “After the game, Mr. Fish said that coach said that was the best game they’ve played all season.”

“I think when we play teams…they’re always going to play their best games, so we have to expect every team is going to come out strong and expect us to come out even stronger to keep up with their pace,” Green said. “We needed to stay focused on this game because this is the game to get us to states, so we were very focused.”

Neither team led by more than two to start the first set, but after gaining some momentum, North Branch was able to enact an 11-4 run to seal a 25-16 victory. The second set was similar, tied at 12-12 before the Broncos had a 10-0 run to eventually win 25-18. By the third, Mt. Morris had no answer, trailing 15-6 midway through. North Branch would take the match with a 25-13 victory.

“The game was kind of slow. It was the kind of game where we had to be patient,” Fish said. [Mt. Morris] plays defensively and waits for you to make mistakes, and we didn’t do that until I think the third set we had like four in a row. So it was a different style for us. We like a power game, they don't do that, so we just had to adjust.”

Deshetsky led the team with 14 kills, 13 digs, and a perfect 13-for-13 in serves with two aces. Green added 25 digs and served 19-for-20 with an ace, and junior Adrienne Greschaw had 36 assists and 22 digs.

Adding to North Branch’s balanced attack was senior Natasha Bickel with 11 kills and four blocks, freshman Aubree Deshetsky (seven kills, two blocks), junior Clara Gyomory (six kills, three blocks), and junior Kaela Chingwa (five kills, two blocks).

For Alana Deshetsky, she said she’s just grateful to be back to playing at full strength after suffering injuries in both of her knees at the end of last year.

“Last year at this time I was hoping, like, ‘Maybe I’ll get through this game,’ one game at a time,” she said. “Now to finally be healthy, this is what I’ve looked forward to since I was injured.”

The Broncos will leave for Battle Creek Thursday morning to continue preparing for Friday’s Division 2 State Semifinal against Grand Rapids South Christian. The match is set for 4:30 p.m. in the Kellogg Area. Buy tickets.

Should they win, they’ll play in Saturday’s state championship at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of Dearborn Divine Child and Cadillac.

“I have a great, dedicated group of girls. We’ve been injury free this year thank goodness. Last year we didn’t even have a chance in the state finals because we were so banged up,” Fish said. “This year we’re going in healthy, hungry, and confident. I tell them, someone can beat you a set or maybe two, but someone’s got to be really special to beat you in three.”


For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli

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