Unexpected opponent awaits for Lady Trojans

CRYSTAL FALLS – Forest Park will meet an unexpected opponent in the Class D volleyball state quarterfinal Tuesday at Manistique.

Brimley (30-11-4), regional champion for perhaps the first time in more than 20 years, will face the Lady Trojans (30-1-5) at 5 p.m. (Central time).

Pellston (30-23-1), which knocked off Ski Valley Conference champion and state-ranked Onaway in the regional semifinals, fell to Brimley 3-2 (13-25, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-8) in the finals.

“I knew we could do it,” said Brimley Coach Lisa Moran. “We struggled with serves early in the game and you can lose games missing serves.

“We have the hitters. Once we get the passes there, then we were good to go.”

Tabitha Graham (15 kills, 17 digs) and 6-foot-3 Hana Vesela (15 kills), a Czech Republic foreign exchange student, paced the Bays at the net. Setter Clarissa Kelly collected 39 assists.

“What I know about Brimley is that they have two good middle hitters,” said Forest Park Coach Kim Bjork, noting Vesela’s height and Graham’s athleticism. “I think they are improving with each match and they are pretty resilient.

“I think we will match up well with them.”

Brimley trailed 15-12 in the third set before kills from Kourtney St. Peter (six for the match) and Graham triggered the Bays.

“They dug up things,” Pellston Coach Brooke Groff said. “They missed some serves in the beginning, but they cleaned up their unforced errors. They swung like mad and they had a lot of great kills.”

Forest Park downed Stephenson 3-1 to win the regional. Lexi Gussert registered 29 kills while Adel Isaacson, Kendra Campbell, Libby Shamion and Maria Stankewicz combined for 20. Stankewicz added 38 assists.

“We need to slow down their middles and force their back row and outside hitters to make plays,” Bjork said. “It’s going to come down to who plays more consistently and who settles into the match first.”

Forest Park is making a fourth straight quarterfinal appearance. The Lady Trojans bowed to Onaway last year; defeated Pellston in the 2011 quarters, and lost to Pellston in 2010.

Forest Park-Brimley winner advances to the state semifinals Thursday afternoon, taking on top-ranked Battle Creek St. Philip or Hillsdale Academy at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.

“We are going to keep working on improving offensively and defensively and our middle coverage,” Bjork said. “We are going to need girls to step up and make plays on Tuesday.”

(The Evening News and Petoskey News contributed to this story)