She was a basketball player deciding whether to play golf or volleyball – and trying both sports – as a ninth grader in the fall of 2009.
Then an unexpected anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injury suffered by Anna Lynch basically forced Emily Kutch into becoming a key player on the volleyball team.
“That got me the experience,” Kutch said. “I didn’t know what to do, but I got the hang of things and got some confidence.”
Lakewood coach Kellie Rowland said she was “a hard worker and a funny girl who was very shy at first.”
“We had to keep bringing the athlete out of her, because she was not always the most competitive,” Rowland added. “Players like Anna, Kalli Barrone, Chelsea Lake and Lexi Spetoskey didn’t let her let up.”
Four years later, Kutch led the Class B No. 1-ranked Lakewood to its first state championship in volleyball and Lansing State Journal player of the year honors.
“I think she played not only for herself this year, but for the past players who gave her an opportunity that she was very thankful for,” Rowland said.
Memories of not wanting to repeat the disappointment of a surprise 3-2 regional final loss to Plainwell in 2010 when the seniors were sophomores was a key motivator for this year’s team.
“I definitely thought our chemistry and depth on our team was so good,” Kutch said. “Our seniors have been together for six years, and Kellie and (assistant) Clair (Rowland) are the best coaches. They made us strong players not only on the court but off the court.”
A 3-2 victory over No. 3-ranked Ada Forest Hills Eastern in a regional final was key. The scores were 25-27, 25-12, 23-25, 25-21, 15-7.
“When we got past them, that boosted our confidence,” Kutch said.
The Vikings followed that with 3-0 victories over Berrien Springs in a quarterfinal at Allegan and Dearborn Divine Child in a semifinal at Battle Creek.
“Everybody on the team said we’re there, we did it and now we have to finish,” said Kutch, who helped her team cap a 52-4 season with a match-high 18 kills against No. 2 North Branch in the state final. “Then the energy after we got wins (in the first two sets) was flowing. We knew we just had to hit the angles, and everybody on the team played well.”
Yet basketball is still Kutch’s first love. Three days after earning the state title in volleyball, she signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at NCAA Division II Northwood in Midland.
“I considered playing volleyball in college a little, but basketball has always been my passion,” Kutch said. “I knew I wanted to play basketball in college.”