BATTLE CREEK –– The Farmington Hills Mercy volleyball program has been so close to winning a state title over the years, but has come up short each time.
The Marlins have played in back-to-back Division 1 state semifinal matches and even played in a Class A state final back in 2010, falling to Bloomfield Hills Marian.
This season, however, offered another opportunity for Mercy to grab that elusive title. The Marlins raced through the playoffs, getting back to Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek for a third straight year.
They swept Ann Arbor Skyline in the semifinal, leaving Lowell High as the last team to beat. As it has all season, Mercy came ready to play Nov. 23, jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
Lowell responded by grabbing set three, but with its past shortcomings on the minds of the Marlins, they refused to be denied again.
The Marlins took set four 26-24 and claimed the program’s first state title.
“We’ve worked so hard throughout this season and the seasons leading up to this,” Mercy senior Jess Mruzik said. “I truly believe 100% that we deserve this trophy. Lowell played amazing. They’re an amazing team. They played out of their minds. But I just think, in the end, that we’ve been working so hard. We’ve had this goal since the beginning of the season and even two years prior when we lost here, so I would’ve definitely been disappointed if we didn’t come out on top.”
When the final point landed, Mercy coach Loretta Vogel couldn’t contain her excitement. She ran over and jumped on top of the dog pile in celebration with her team.
“I had to. I don’t know when it’s going to happen again. After all these years, I was gone. No one was going to stop me on that one,” Vogel said.
Capping off a great season
While the state title was icing on the cake, Mercy put together a dominant season. The Marlins ended the year with an overall record of 58-1.
The only loss for the Marlins was to Lowell back in September. Along with the state title, Mercy was also the top team in the Catholic High School League.
The Marlins will lose three seniors from this year’s group in Mruzik, Genevieve Sale and Camille Compton. There were nine underclassmen on varsity this season.
While Mercy has its stars, Vogel was the first to point out that the success the Marlins had was a full team effort.
“I think from the beginning, everyone plays their role,” Vogel said. “We didn’t bring anyone up from our JV or freshman team, because it was emphasized that they’re a very close-knit group, and I respected that.”
Mruzik finishes off career on top
For most, winning a state title would be a great accomplishment to cap off a career, but Mruzik was also announced as this year’s Miss Volleyball.
In the state final, she showed her worth, collecting a team-high 34 kills, while adding 15 digs and four assists. While her career at Mercy is over, the senior will be playing for the Wolverines at the University of Michigan next season.
“My teammates have had my back every step of the way. They’ve been really supportive. They kept the secret from me, all the coaches kept the secret from me that I was getting Miss Volleyball,” Mruzik said. “As a senior, it’s probably like the best feeling. That’s how you want to end your high school career is with a state championship.”