(File photo) Cass City outside hitter Kelsey Bouverette (12) rises high for a spike during a Red Hawks 3-1 GTW-opening win over USA this year.

Plenty of story lines will take shape as volleyball district tournament begins Monday

(File photo) Cass City outside hitter Kelsey Bouverette (12) rises high for a spike during a Red Hawks 3-1 GTW-opening win over USA this year.
(File photo)
Cass City outside hitter Kelsey Bouverette (12) rises high for a spike during a Red Hawks 3-1 GTW-opening win over USA this year.

PIGEON — The championship match of the Class C volleyball district, hosted by Laker High School on Thursday, could shape up to be a grudge match between Cass City and Unionville-Sebewaing Area.

Of course both teams have work to do to get there.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” said Cass City coach Amy Cuthrell of a potential date with the Patriots in the finals. “But right now we’re concentrating on getting through Harbor Beach or Ubly, those are both really good teams.”

The volleyball state tournament begins Monday, and when its over, just four Michigan teams will be left standing.

In the Laker district, Cass City earned a first round bye and will play Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s Harbor Beach vs. Ubly set. The other side of the bracket features a Laker/USA matchup Monday, with the winner moving on to face Bad Axe Wednesday in the tournament semifinals.

USA has seen a lot of Laker and Bad Axe this year, beating them both twice in Greater Thumb West play. Cass City has faced both Ubly and the Pirates this year, and beaten each as well.

“We saw Harbor Beach this past weekend (at the Laker Invite), they were actually in our pool,” Cuthrell said. “We beat them but they had a couple of girls out taking the ACT. But I’ve scouted them knowing there was a chance we could draw them.”

The Red Hawks defeated Ubly twice at the USA Invitational in September, downing the Bearcats in pool play and eliminating Ubly in the quarterfinals.

If Cass City and USA clash Thursday, the two squads will play a rubber match — as the pair split their two GTW meetings this year.

After graduating the majority of its lineup, Cass City began this year with brand new starters — and a new coaching staff.

“For a team that completely lost all of their starters, with the exception of Sayge (Cuthrell) and Kelsey (Bouverette), I assumed we’d be an underdog,” Cuthrell said. “So I think we caught some teams off guard this year.”

The Red Hawks finished in second place in the GTW at 8-2 and USA was third with a 7-3 record. Both finished behind Reese (9-1) who’s only league loss came to Cass City.

Cuthrell, the coach’s daughter, and Bouverette have led the Red Hawks’ offense this year while Lauren Dickinson and Baylee Murphy have paced the defense.

USA counts on a 1-2 punch of Rylee Zimmer and Olivia Williamson to deliver crushing spikes. Sara Reinhardt controls the offense and Katie Engelhardt is the defensive libero.

Class B at Otisville-Lakeville

There should be no doubt regarding the favorite at the LakeVille district.

North Branch is ranked No. 2 in Class B, and will take a 46-8 record into the state tournament. All eight of the Broncos’ losses this year came at the hands of Class A ranked opponents.

North Branch opens play Monday against host LakeVille, a team the Broncos beat easily Wednesday to wrap up a perfect Tri-Valley Conference East slate. The winner of Croswell-Lexington awaits the winner Wednesday.

“We just played LakeVille, and they’re much-improved,” said North Branch coach Jim Fish. “Croswell-Lexington just made the state rankings (as an honorable mention pick) and they’re a good team. We respect them and we’ve had some good matches with them in the past.”

The other side of the bracket pits Almont against Imlay City in the opener Monday, with the winner moving on to face Caro.

“I like our chances, but at the same time, we respect everybody,” Fish said.

North Branch has been healthy for the past two weeks — for the first time this year. Returning first-team all-stater, sophomore Allyson Severance missed the first several weeks of the season with an injury. Before she came back another outside hitter — Reese Ruhlman — went down. Now, both players are on the front line along with another first-teamer — Grand Valley State recruit Olivia Fike. Setter Madee Miner, one of 10 Michigan Miss Volleyball candidates is the perfect player to set up the big hitters.

A big matchup could be brewing if North Branch, last year’s Class B runner-up, and No. 3 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep each win their district.

“If we’re able to advance past next week, then we would have a (potential) match up with Notre Dame in the regional semifinal,” Fish said. “That would be a state-title type match.”

Class C at Marlette

Several local teams will battle for the Class C district title hosted by Marlette. For Kingston, it is the beginning of an era of new, and larger, opponents.

“It’s definitely a change (joining Class C this year),” said Kingston coach Beth Hunter. “I have lived in Kingston all of my life and we have always been Class D.”

(File photo) Kingston outside hitter Carley Smith (5) delivers a spike to the left of Mayville's Jenna Franks, who attempts to block during a NCTL volleyball game this season.
(File photo)
Kingston outside hitter Carley Smith (5) delivers a spike to the left of Mayville’s Jenna Franks, who attempts to block during a NCTL volleyball game this season.

One of a few Thumb-area high schools to increase in student body since last year, the Cardinals were moved up to Class C for the first time in school history this year.

“We will be the first Kingston team to play in the postseason since we moved up,” Hunter said. “We drew the winner of Sandusky/Millington, so obviously we’ll have a tough opponent. We haven’t seen Millington yet this season, but we faced Sandusky in our first match of the season and they beat us pretty handily.

“I know we’ve improved since then and I’m sure they have as well.”

There will be three district quarterfinal games played Monday at Marlette — Marlette vs. Vassar, Reese vs. Genesee and Sandusky vs. Millington. The Vassar/Marlette winner and Genesee/Reese winner play Wednesday in the other semifinal. Kingston got the only bye in the seven-team district.

“It’s a tough district, with good quality programs throughout, many of which had very good seasons,” Hunter said. “I just have been emphasizing to my girls to embrace the challenge, and play together, and leave it all on the floor.

The Cardinals tied for first place in the North Central Thumb League Stars Division this year.

(File photo) Reese's Madison Thompson rises high to deliver a kill against USA defenders Sara Reinhardt (8) and Meghan Reithel Thursday, Oct. 20. The Rockets won the match in five sets to capture their first GTW championship since 2010.
(File photo)
Reese’s Madison Thompson rises high to deliver a kill against USA defenders Sara Reinhardt (8) and Meghan Reithel Thursday, Oct. 20. The Rockets won the match in five sets to capture their first GTW championship since 2010.

Reese won the Greater Thumb West title this year with a 9-1 record while Vassar was just 1-9 in the GTW. Sandusky (5-5) was a middle of the pack team in the Greater Thumb East and Marlette was last in the division with a 2-8 record. Millington was 2-5 in the Tri-Valley Conference East, which is made up of mostly Class B schools.

Local volleyball district tournaments

Class B

At Otisville-Lakeville

Monday, Oct. 31

Otisville-LakeVille vs. North Branch

Croswell-Lexington vs. Yale

Almont vs. Imlay City

Wednesday, Nov. 2

LakeVille/North Branch winner vs. Cros-Lex/Yale winner

Almont/Imlay City winner vs. Caro

Thursday, Nov. 3

Championship

At Birch Run

Monday, Oct. 31

Birch Run vs. Saginaw Swan Valley

Carrollton vs. Bridgeport

Wednesday, Nov. 2

Birch Run/Swan Valley winner vs. Frankenmuth

Carrollton/Bridgeport winner vs. Saginaw

Thursday, Nov. 3

Championship

Class C

At Marlette

Monday, Oct. 31

Marlette vs. Vassar

Reese vs. Genesee

Sandusky vs. Millington

Wednesday, Nov. 2

Marlette/Vassar winner vs. Reese/Genesee winner

Sandusky/Millington winner vs. Kingston

Thursday, Nov. 3

Championship

At Laker

Monday, Oct. 31

Laker vs. Unionville-Sebewaing Area

Ubly vs. Harbor Beach

Wednesday, Nov. 2

Laker/USA winner vs. Bad Axe

Ubly/Harbor Beach winner vs. Cass City

Thursday, Nov. 3

Championship

Class D

At Carsonville-Port Sanilac

Monday, Oct. 31

Deckerville vs. Mayville

Wednesday, Nov. 2

Peck vs. Kinde North Huron

Deckerville/Mayville winner vs. Carsonville-Port Sanilac

Thursday, Nov. 3

Championship

At Caseville

Wednesday, Nov. 2

Bay City All Saints vs. Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary

Akron-Fairgrove vs. Owendale-Gagetown

BCAS/SMLS winner vs. Caseville

Thursday, Nov. 3

Championship

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