Farmington Hills Mercy sophomore Jillian Collins attempts to block a shot from Bloomfield Hills Marian senior Ella Schomer.

Farmington Hills Mercy sophomore Jillian Collins attempts to block a shot from Bloomfield Hills Marian senior Ella Schomer.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Mercy volleyball built on chemistry and continuity

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Farmington Press | Published September 30, 2022

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FARMINGTON HILLS — A mix of senior leadership, chemistry and pure talent is a dynamic trio that continues to be a recipe for success for one Farmington Hills volleyball team.

Recognized for their 2019 Michigan High School Athletic Association Division One State Championship and decade-long success rate, Farmington Hills Mercy (21-5) continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the Division One.

Currently ranked No. 3 in Division One according to the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association, Mercy’s 20-2 record this season showcases a team prepared to make a run in the playoffs.

“I think we just have that kind of program,” Mercy coach Loretta Vogel said. “Every year, we teach the skills from the time they’re freshmen, so it’s just the skills they continue to build on themselves.”

Led by seniors Ella Shields (outside hitter), Erin Kline (setter), Lauren Mullan (middle hitter), and Julia Pallozzi (defensive setter), Mercy’s senior leadership has been a key part in its success this year. Shields was an all-State honorable mention honoree last season.

“For all us seniors this year, we really got everyone closer this year, and it really helps us on and off the court,” Kline said.

Along with the four seniors are two upperclassmen leaders in junior outside hitter Angie Butler and junior outside/middle hitter Lana LaFontaine.

Mercy’s highest numbers this season come from its sophomore class, led by star setter and third team all-State honoree Campbell Flynn. Juniors Jillian Collins (outside hitter), Kaitlyn Pallozzi (outside/middle hitter), Keira McNutt (defensive setter) and Ava Fitzgerald (outside hitter) have made significant contributions this year for Mercy.

While a mixed bag in age, the team chemistry remains Mercy’s biggest strength.

“I think last year, there were a lot of new people on the team, and this year, I feel we’re a lot closer and we play well together and work together,” Shields said. “I think we’re more of a team this year than last year.”

The chemistry and continuity has been at an all-time high this year, and Vogel said it’s everywhere, from the players to the coaching staff.

“Many of us have been at Mercy for years together,” Vogel said. “That continuity is helpful, without a doubt.”

Mercy’s coaching staff consists of Mallory Kopa, Angela Kalczynski and Andrew Thompson.

Mercy’s chemistry has paid off on the offensive and defensive ends, but the offensive unit has been especially dominant this season.

“We’re very tall, and I think we run the offense really well,” Campbell said. “If it’s a 6-2 or 5-1, I think we distribute the ball really well.”

While Mercy continues its successful season, it will undoubtedly have to deal with Bloomfield Hills Marian in its run for a state title. Marian, who has won back-to-back Division One state championships, has bested Mercy in each of their last two playoff meetings.

Marian got the better of Mercy this season in a three-set sweep on Sept. 28, but it will be a different atmosphere and a different Mercy team, come playoff time.

Mercy has done it before when they beat Marian on their way to a state championship title in 2019, and they’re ready to do it once more.

“It’s been a rivalry for so many years,” Shields said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s Marian.’ It’s always a huge game.”