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August 20, 2014

Changes on the court

MAC volleyball teams to play in new divisions in 2014, new faces to take center stage

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

When the Macomb Area Conference portion of the 2014 volleyball schedule begins Sept. 14, several teams will be introduced to new rivals, as eight teams in the 36-squad MAC have moved into new divisions.

The MAC comprises six divisions: Red, White, Blue, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Each division this season will welcome at least one new team. Some — the MAC White and Blue — will see the introduction of two new teams to the league.

New kids on the block
Romeo moves into the MAC Red after going 10-0 to win the MAC White in 2013. The Bulldogs also advanced to the Class A state quarterfinals last season.

Utica Eisenhower moves up into the MAC White after capturing its second straight MAC Blue title last season. Fraser High moves to the White after struggling in the Red last season.

Macomb L’Anse Creuse North goes into the MAC Blue after a season that saw the Crusaders win a third straight MAC Gold championship. Utica Ford moves to the Blue from the White.

“The coaches and the teams in the Blue are all talented,” LCN coach Gary Malburg said. “We feel we will be in the mix for another championship and we will be very competitive, as we lost only two starters from last season. Our challenge is to maintain our competitive edge night in and night out.”

Warren Woods Tower moves to the Gold from the Blue. East Detroit High, coming off its first division title since 2009, moves to the Silver from the Bronze, and Clawson High moves to the Bronze from the Silver.

The changes mean four of the six MAC divisions will have a new division champion.

“Every two years, the MAC goes through realignments depending on the level of success a program has sustained over that time period,” said seventh-year Macomb Dakota coach Tracie Ferguson, who guided the Cougars to a state title in 2012 and has the team on a streak of three straight MAC Red titles.

“This will be the first time we add a new team to the (MAC Red) since I’ve been at Dakota. We are very excited to have Romeo move up. They have continued to grow and develop into a successful volleyball program and still have one of the top players in the county, outside hitter Gia Milana, to help them continue that success. 

The league will also see changes in terms of roster turnover. A number of teams lost players selected for last season’s All-MAC teams to graduation, meaning other players will step into expanded roles.

“The league is great,” said second-year East Detroit High coach Krysta Kreyger, who earned MAC Bronze Coach of the Year honors last season. “We had a lot of players (who graduated) last season receive scholarships to continue their playing careers, and that gives (our league) more recognition across the state of Michigan.

“This season, I’m sure the MAC will continue to be great.”

The 2014 season gets underway Aug. 22. Most teams will have just nine days of tryouts and practice before the first regular-season contest.

“It’s actually one of my favorite times of the season,” Ferguson said. “Yes, nine days is tough, but this way I am able to learn what our strengths and weaknesses are very early on, so we know where our focus will be as a team, as individuals and as a coaching staff.”

Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the six MAC leagues. For full schedules for each team, check www.macombmac.misd.net.

MAC Red
Macomb Dakota and Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse each went 9-1 in league play to share the MAC Red title. The division championship was the third straight for Dakota, the last MAC team to win a state title (2012). L’Anse Creuse captured its first division title since 2009. Grosse Pointe North finished at 6-4, followed by Port Huron Northern (4-6), Marysville (2-8) and Fraser (0-10).

Romeo replaces Fraser in the Red. The league will see some high roster turnover, as just two of the 2013 All-MAC Red Division athletes — Marysville senior Alison Bastionelli and Grosse Pointe North junior Christa Raicevich — are eligible to return.

MAC White
The MAC White will have a new champion after 2013 champ Romeo, 10-0 in 2013, has moved on. Anchor Bay finished second in the league at 7-3, followed by Grosse Pointe South at 6-4, Sterling Heights Stevenson (league champion in 2011-12) at 4-6, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (3-7) and Utica Ford (0-10).

The league welcomes two teams — Eisenhower and Fraser — after losing Romeo and Utica Ford.

The 2013 All-MAC selections — junior Hannah Gates (Anchor Bay), sophomore Lexi Kohut (Grosse Pointe South) and senior Taylor Stewart (Eisenhower) are eligible to return.

MAC Blue
The MAC Blue is one of four divisions that will have a new champion after the respective 2013 champion in each of those leagues moves into a new division.

Last season’s champ, Eisenhower, went 10-0 to claim its second straight division crown and moved into the MAC Blue. Sterling Heights High finished second in league play with an 8-2 mark, followed by Utica High (5-5), Warren Mott (3-7), Port Huron — MAC Blue champion in 2011 — also finished 3-7 and Warren Woods Tower (1-9).

LCN moves to the Blue from the Gold, which it has dominated the past three years, going 28-2 in that span. Utica Ford comes to the Blue from the MAC White.

Just three 2013 All-MAC selections are eligible to return to MAC Blue teams: senior Madison Czopek of Sterling Heights High, sophomore Jessica Lodge (Utica High) and senior Lindsey Sutter, LCN.

MAC Gold
Teams in the Gold may be happy to see three-time defending league championship LCN move into the Blue.

LCN went 10-0 to claim another division title. St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (7-3 in 2013) tied with St. Clair for second. Roseville High finished 3-7 in 2013, followed by Warren Cousino (2-8) and Marine City (1-9).

Warren Woods Tower essentially takes LCN’s spot in the league.

The lone 2013 All-MAC performer returning to the MAC Gold is Marine City junior Taelor Frank.

MAC Silver
St. Clair Shores Lakeview will look to retain the MAC Silver crown after winning its first league title in seven years in 2013. The Huskies went 9-1. Madison Heights Lamphere (8-2) just missed out on a league championship. Center Line High was next at 6-4, followed by Clawson High (4-6), St. Clair Shores South Lake (2-8) and Clintondale (1-9).

East Detroit, which won the MAC Bronze in 2013, moves into the MAC Silver, while Clawson goes to the MAC Bronze.

“I think the (move) will be good for us,” Kreyger said. “We return a solid portion of our roster, which puts us in great position to compete for a league title again.”

All-MAC selections scheduled to return to MAC Silver squads are senior Taylor Pawlusiak, South Lake; senior Erin Denmark, Lamphere; junior Terese Feldpausen, Lakeview; senior Kalleigh Mathison, Clintondale; seniors Victoria Grimes and Daniella Marsee, and junior Bree’shauna Bester, East Detroit.

MAC Bronze
Like the White, Blue and Gold, the MAC Silver will also have a new division champion.

New Haven and Fitzgerald (both 7-3) tied for second behind East Detroit a season ago, followed by Mount Clemens (4-6), Warren Lincoln (2-8) and Madison Heights Madison.

Clawson High joins the Bronze after six years in the MAC Silver.

All-MAC selections eligible to return to Bronze teams rosters are senior Tori Jones, New Haven and senior Leah Sanders, Warren Fitzgerald.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jason Carmel Davis at jdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1107. Twitter Follow Jason on Twitter.