Thirty-two teams are alive in each division of the Michigan High School Athletic Association volleyball playoffs.
That number will be cut in half tonight following regional semifinal rounds across the state, with at least one local school among those fortunate 32 in all four divisions.
In the Class A state tournament, top-ranked Gull Lake will put its outstanding season on the line when it takes on Portage Central in the regional at Portage Northern beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The Blue Devils defeated Portage Central (25-13, 25-22) on the way to winning the East Grand Rapids Invitational back in September. The Blue Devils have been led this season by a pair of Miss Volleyball Award finalists in setter Katie Schau (committed to Minnesota) and Leah Perri (committed to Clemson).
Gull Lake looks to continue its recent success in the state tournament, having advanced to the Class A quarterfinals in 2011. The Blue Devils also went to the Class B quarterfinals in 2007, while winning the program’s lone state championship in 1994.
St. Philip is the six-time defending Class D state champions, and the top-ranked Tigers will put that streak on the line when they face sixth-ranked Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at the Climax-Scotts regional beginning at 6 p.m.
The Tigers and Defenders are familiar in the MHSAA postseason, as St. Philip defeated Tri-unity in the 2011 state final (25-16, 25-13, 25-11) as well as ending its season in the 2010 regional finals.
St. Philip head coach Vicky Groat said her team will be focused on the match ahead and can’t be overconfident moving forward.
“That was last year and both teams still have a lot from last year,” Groat said. “You can’t rely on anything that happened last year. They will be hungry and want revenge. They are confident they can beat us.”
Both teams return the bulk of last year’s squads, with St. Philip led by a Miss Volleyball Award finalist in outside hitter Amanda McKinzie (committed to Virginia Tech) while Tri-unity is led by the sister duo of outside hitter Alyssa Petrick and setter Megan Petrick.
“Confidence is a big thing,” Groat added. “If you go in not confident or overconfident, it can bite you. We have to concentrate on Tri-unity. We can’t look ahead. Those sisters are good.”
In the Class B regional at Vicksburg, Marshall will take on Plainwell beginning at 7 p.m.
The Redhawks are coming off their first district title since 2002, while Plainwell has won back-to-back districts and were the Wolverine Conference East Division champions this season.
In Class C, eighth-ranked Bronson heads to the Jonesville regional where it will take on third-ranked Concord beginning at 6 p.m.
The St. Joseph Valley-champion Vikings have met up with Concord three times at various tournaments this season, dropping all six sets to the Big Eight Conference champions.
In Class D, Bellevue hosts a regional and will face Westland Huron Valley Lutheran beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Neither team has much state tournament experience to rely on, as Bellevue claimed its first district crown since 1994, while Westland Huron Valley Lutheran captured its first-ever district championship.