The Mason County Central girl’s volleyball squad from 2007 — which could very well be the greatest volleyball team to ever come from Mason County — was slated to be honored with induction into the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame.
The hall of fame canceled its 2020 induction ceremony, though, so the members of the team — along with Bob Ayers, Adam Johnson, Dave Killips, Dr. Annie (Tewel) Sadosty and Kelly Smith — will be honored during the 2021 induction ceremony. This year’s ceremony was scheduled for last Saturday.
Though the Spartans didn’t win the Class B state championship, they had one wildly impressive trek to the state runner-up spot.
The season began with a coaching change, as Scott Stone took over after serving as an assistant coach.
“I knew the girls really well, and I knew what they were going to be capable of,” Stone said. “It’s a phenomenal feeling to have been blessed with that opportunity. Great kids, great athletes.”
The roster included Stephanie Morong, Abby Shereda, Ashley Melchert, Jamie Melchert, Liz Deller, Amanda Brown, Marla Nelson, Lauren Geers, Krystal Dunblazer, Carli Geers, Tiffany Christmas and Kailey Jensen.
This group of girls saw their share of successes in volleyball, winning four straight district titles. But it was 2007 when they broke through for a run to the state tournament.
The season was not without its challenges, however. In the Spartans’ first tournament of the season, they didn’t even advance beyond pool play, collecting a handful of losses on the first day. Stone mentioned he had overcomplicated things schematically, and the team found its stride shortly thereafter without looking back.
“I think we won six tournaments in a row after that,” Stone recalled. “We just simplified some things and made a couple position changes, and kept trying to get better and better at what we did.”
Central had to get through seventh-ranked Freeland in the regional semifinals played at Howard City, and then the Spartans knocked off Belding for the school’s first ever regional title.
The Spartans rolled into Roscommon where they played Cadillac for a berth in the state semifinals, and Central swept the Vikings in straight sets.
Central headed to Western Michigan University’s University Arena where the Spartans faced Carleton Airport in the state semifinals. Carleton Airport earned its berth by defeating one of the great volleyball powers in the state and then defending state champion, Marysville, in the state quarterfinals.
The Spartans rallied from a 2-1 deficit to earn to punch a ticket for the state championship match against the Jets. It also earned them a pairing with nationally-ranked Grand Rapids South Christian in the state final match. South Christian finished that season with a phenomenal 74-4 record.
The Spartans finished the season with a record of 52-9-3. This particular group of athletes also shined in other sports, playing basketball and softball. Their success together, though, shined in volleyball.