HUDSONVILLE — Navea Gauthier said it with conviction at the start of this volleyball season: Shelby can win a state championship.
The Tigers fell a little short of attaining that goal, but the seeds were planted and so many memories were made.
Shelby lost a tough, five-setter to Kalamazoo Christian in a Division 3 state quarterfinal Tuesday night at Unity Christian High School. The Tigers took the first set, 25-22, then dropped sets two (25-18) and three (25-23) before roaring back in the fourth (25-19). The Comets dialed up their defense in the decisive fifth set and took it, 15-8.
Shelby finishes its season with a 34-9-2 record, including a West Michigan Conference Rivers Division title along with district and regional championships.
Kalamazoo Christian (38-5-3) advances to Friday’s 2 p.m. state semifinal against Calumet at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. Calumet swept McBain in a quarterfinal on Tuesday.
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
“Not sure how I feel about this game. We certainly will never be satisfied with a loss, but I saw something in my team tonight that makes me feel like this is just another chapter in the evolution of the volleyball program,” Shelby coach Tom Weirich said.
“Had we been offered a trip to the quarterfinals at the beginning of the season, I think we would have taken it. Now that we have been there, I think we realize just how close we are to playing on the biggest stage.”
Gauthier, a 6-foot-1 sophomore outside hitter, has lofty goals and game to match them. She piled up 51 kills on a whopping 137 swings. Gauthier added 22 service points (three aces) and one block.
Shelby senior libero Morgan Weirich totaled 38 digs and six assists, while sophomore Audrey Horton had 55 assists. Junior Biloxi Lee contributed 22 service points (two aces) and 21 digs for the Tigers, while senior Claire Gowell notched four kills.
No stats were submitted by Kalamazoo Christian.
While it’s tough to say good-bye to the seniors, including Weirich, Gowell and Gladys Moncada-Pineda, this tournament run and the disappointing quarterfinal loss should give Shelby’s returnees even more confidence and motivation going forward.
“If this doesn’t give us fuel as we go into next season, I don’t know what will,” Weirich said. “Seeing the tears in the locker room after the game showed me just how invested each player is in the program. Shelby is on the volleyball map and I think it will stay there for a while.”
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