Grosse Pointe South's girls' volleyball team used a wave of momentum and emotion to stage a huge come-from-behind victory, 12-25, 18-25, 28-26, 25-18, 15-11, over archrival Grosse Pointe North in last week's Class A district semifinal match at Eastpointe East Detroit.
The Norsemen easily won game one 25-12 and game two 25-18, plus stared at match-point, up 24-19 in game three.
That is when the momentum turned as junior Hannah Adams was dead-eye with her serving and, in a matter of a few minutes, the game was tied at 24 and the Blue Devils had all the momentum.
The Norsemen grabbed the lead two more times, 25-24 and 26-25, but couldn't close out the Blue Devils.
In stepped junior Katie Murphy. The lefty delivered an ace to give the Blue Devils a 27-26 lead and served out the final point, giving South life.
"It was all about momentum and we definitely had it in the final three games," South head coach Ryan Welser said. "The girls were playing so well that you could see them jump an inch higher and make all the plays. What a match and we are going to use this momentum in the district championship. It's less than 24 hours away and we will be ready."
The Norsemen dominated this district for more than a decade. Every time South put together a strong regular season, North would outplay its rival in the districts and end the Blue Devils' season.
The Blue Devils turned the page on the script and dominated game four, winning 25-18 as senior captains Claire DeBoer and Neala Berkowski had plenty of support. Sophomore hitter Izzy Murphy was untouchable in game four, collecting a couple of booming kills to give them the lead.
Once again, Adams closed out the game, serving back-to-back aces.
Game five was nerve-racking and tight. The Blue Devils jumped ahead early with DeBoer serving an ace, but the Norsemen tied it 5-5 when sophomore Christa Raicevich had back-to-back aces and senior Breann Reveley collected a kill.
Blue Devil junior Sydney Srebernak had three service points to break a 6-6 tie. It was those three service points that really put the Blue Devils in the driver's seat and put the Norsemen on their heels.
Junior Grace Metry served a point with DeBoer tipping it to an open space for point No. 13.
A Norsemen mishit was point No. 14 and DeBoer put an exclamation mark on the victory with a kill for the match-winning point.
"It was all about momentum and we never got it back late in the third game," North head coach Kim Lockhart said. "We came on strong in the first two games, but never could sustain the edge and it cost us in the end."
For the Blue Devils, Izzy Murphy had 14 kills, while DeBoer finished with 19 kills and 12 digs. Sophomore Carina Bertakis chipped in with seven kills on seven attempts and had 31 assists.
Adams finished with 17 service points and five aces, and Berkowski had 16 digs to steady the defense.
Reveley led the Norsemen with 24 kills and Raicevich added 14 kills.
In the first round, South destroyed Detroit Southeastern in three games, while North defeated Detroit Denby in three games. North finished its season 31-15-2 overall.
For the Blue Devils in the Southeastern match, Berkowski set a state record by serving 21 aces, breaking the mark of 20 set twice. In addition, sophomore Ginny Hayden had 12 service points and seven aces.
Grosse Pointe South put the final touches on the district tournament with a 25-16, 25-16, 25-22 win over St. Clair Shores Lakeview in the championship match, improving to 34-11-2.
Metry got the Blue Devils off and running in the first game, serving six straight points with two aces mixed in, to make it 9-2.
After that, the Blue Devils benefited from Huskies unforced errors. Adams finished off the Huskies with back-to-back aces.
It was much of the same in game two as Adams served four straight points with DeBoer netting a kill and Izzy Murphy a tip to give the Blue Devils a 5-2 lead.
Katie Murphy mixed in a couple of aces and Metry ended game two with an ace.
The Huskies had their opportunity to extend the match to a fourth game, playing their best, while the Blue Devils had an unusual amount of errors.
With the Huskies leading 20-19, South junior Kara French served four consecutive points with Adams and Berkowski netting kills during the run.
The Huskies battled back to cut the deficit to two, 24-22, but DeBoer's kill gave the Blue Devils the game-three victory and the team its first district championship in 16 years.
"Our No. 1 goal is to advance beyond the state districts and we knew we would have to beat North to get it done," Welser said. "We beat North, so we had to validate the victory by winning the district title and we did.
"It's a great win for our program and now we advance to the regionals."