BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Following a thrilling five-game win over Livonia Stevenson on Tuesday in the Michigan High School Athletic Association volleyball quarterfinals, No. 8 Bedford found itself playing five games again with a return trip to the state finals on the line at Kellogg Arena against Bloomfield Hills Marian.
The good fortune was not to be, however, and the Kicking Mules lost a heartbreaker, 26-28, 25-14, 19-25, 25-23, 15-11. After the other semifinal matches on the day each were decided in three games apiece, fans who stuck around and those who made the drive from eastern and southeastern Michigan were treated to an exciting match.
“We came up against an awesome player,” said Bedford coach Jodi Manore, referring to the Mustangs' senior outside hitter, Jessie Kopmeyer, a verbal commit to Division II Hillsdale College. “[She] played her heart out. She took over the match.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Bedford vs. Bloomfield Hills Marian
Bedford took game one 28-26, but it was three kills from Kopmeyer that put Marian ahead 15-11. Back came the Mules, with kills down the stretch from Nicole Rightnowar at 23-23, a block from Rightnowar and Chloe Lamb at 25-25, and a kill by Lamb to win the first game.
Marian took the second game 25-14, using a big effort from middle hitters Paige Carey and Katarina Mazanki. Bedford responded with a third-game win 25-19 when junior outside hitter Kayla Gwozdz and sophomore outside hitter Isabelle Marciniak began to shine, both accounting for 10 kills.
The Mules enjoyed leads of 14-12, 15-13, and 17-15 in the fourth game, but the Mustangs were not to be denied and sent home without a fight. Carey tallied kills at 19-19 and at 20-19. An attacking error by Gwozdz and a service ace by Kopmeyer prompted a Mules timeout. Marian went on to win the fourth game 25-23.
In the final game, Bedford started slow, and it hurt. Kills by Alannah Barash, Kopmeyer, and an ace by Delaney Backonen for Marian put them ahead 6-2. Bedford got close at 7-5, but the Mules were whistled for four hits, drawing a raucous response from the Mules' fans, who disagreed.
Marian took a 10-5 lead and didn't look back, winning the match with two more kills from Carey at the end.
“We had two sets that we played awesome — played very, very well,” said Manore. “The fourth one, we played pretty darn good, and it just came down to the very end.
“We had two we didn't play quite so well. Our lack of blocking hurt us tonight.”
Gwozdz led the Kicking Mules' effort in defeat with 18 kills. Teammates Isabelle Marciniak and Rightnowar each added 12 kills of their own. Marciniak hit for .310 in the loss.
Setter Mackenzie Andrews paced the Bedford offense with 45 assists. Senior Madeline Andres had 19 digs in her final match.
“When you get to that point, and you start playing not to lose, we kind of broke down a couple of times,” said Manore. “I'm extremely proud of them. We took [Marian] to five and they beat us pretty handily the first time they played us this year. A tough one to lose, but I thought we played well.”
Kopmeyer collected a game-high 25 kills, hitting .258 in the win. Carey added 16, hitting .297, and Barash pitched in 13. Marian setter Meghan Cotant served up 57 of her team's 70 assists.
“The quick set hurt us. Our middle blockers weren't getting up with it,” Manore said. “We haven't played a setter who jump-sets quite so much, and the hitter is right there on it.”
Bedford's season ends at 65-10-2.