St. Francis Returns to Battle Creek After Three-Year Absence

TRAVERSE CITY – First-year coach Mark Witczak has Traverse City St. Francis back in the volleyball state semifinals for the first time since 2015.

Eighth-ranked St. Francis will square off against sixth-ranked Unionville-Sebewaing (44-4-4) Thursday at noon at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena in a Division 3 semifinal.

The Gladiators (34-13) have won 20 of their last 21 matches and three regional titles in four years. St. Francis is back at the state’s biggest stage after a 3-1 win over honorable mention Beal City on Tuesday.

Senior outside hitter and Miami (Ohio) commit Molly Mirabelli was a freshman on the St. Francis team that lost to Bronson in a 2015 state semifinal and leads the Gladiators with 408 kills and 129 digs.

“Freshman year we made it to Kellogg, and I think that was just an amazing feeling, an amazing experience,” she said. “I want this team to feel that invigoration like so bad.”

The 2012 Class C state runner-up, St. Francis recorded wins over 2017 Class D semifinalist Rogers City, Division 2 quarterfinalist Kingsley and Division 4 semifinalist and top-ranked Leland this fall.

“I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m so excited to be a part at the Kellogg Center,” St. Francis junior Maddie Connolly said. “That was our goal at the beginning of the season. Everyone’s just so overwhelmed to have made it.”

Unionville-Sebewaing has never appeared in a state final and is in the semifinals for the first time since 2014.

The winner of Thursday’s semifinal will face either 2017 Class C state champion and second-ranked Bronson (56-6) or top-ranked Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (45-3) Saturday for the state championship.

Categories: Volleyball