Brandywine wins third consecutive district crown

LAWTON — The Division 3 district volleyball championship match between Brandywine and Bridgman was one for the ages Saturday morning.

The Bobcats and Bees are no strangers to each other as they spent the 2019 season battling for the BCS Athletic Conference Red Division championship. Bridgman captured the league title on Brandywine’s home court back on Oct. 26.

The Bobcats were not about to let the Bees celebrate in front of them again.

And thanks to junior Kylie Myers and senior Bethany Duval, Brandywine accomplished their goal of winning a third consecutive district championship.

But it was not easy.

The Bobcats needed five sets to defeat the Bees 22-25, 25-21, 25-17, 17-25, 15-7.

First-year Brandywine coach Ray Prestly rallied his team after the opening-set loss with a simple message.

“Play our game,” he said to his team in the huddle between sets. “It really is all about emotion. This is an emotional game. So, when we are controlling our breathing and all those things, we are thinking clearly. When we start looking at the scoreboard and watching the outcome of the game, then our heads start spinning and we do not have a clear focus on what we need to do.”

Prestly has been preaching all season that this is a process. If his team believes in the process, then good things will happen.

“The process is starting to work,” he said. “They are starting to figure out what it is that I have been teaching them. This whole week is about trusting that process and coming here to win the district tournament.”

After Bridgman raced out to a 16-8 in the opening set, the Bobcats seemed to settle down and get back to what has allowed them to fashion a 34-win season. Brandywine outscored the Bees 12-8 to cut Bridgman’s advantage to 20-18.

And although the Bobcats dropped the first set, the team built up its confidence heading into the second set.

Brandywine turned to its most dominating player in the second and sets, Myers, to get the job done, not only at the net, but at the service line.

The junior delivered kill after kill, including one from the 10-foot line, and served up point after point and threw in a few blocks for good measure as the Bobcats swept the two sets. Brandywine led 14-8 in the second set and 15-7 in the third to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

“We were not going to lose,” Myers said about her and the team’s mindset going into the second set. “All of us were energized and more determined.”

Myers would finish the match with 24 kills and three blocks. Senior teammate Duval would add 19 kills, four blocks, 14 digs and four aces.

“I would say our nerves calmed down the second game,” Duval said. “The first game we were so jittery and afraid to mess up. For the second game, we could have cared less if we messed up, we were just there to win.”

Both Myers and Duval agreed that it was tough playing Bridgman again because the two teams know each other so well.

“You just have to push past that and be better,” Myers said.

“You just have to come up with new things for them, especially since I have played against most of them for four years,” Duval said. Most of them were on varsity my freshman year.”

For Duval, winning a district in his senior season is a great accomplishment.

“It feels great, especially since they took the conference title from us,” she said.

But that is not the final goal for the Bobcats. They want to head to Schoolcraft on Tuesday and take out the Gobles Tigers in the first step of winning a regional championship.

“We do not know a lot about them,” Duval said. “We just need to play the way we know how to play.”

In the other half of the regional bracket, three-time defending state champion Bronson will face No. 1-ranked Schoolcraft.

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