The second-place Rockford Rams volleyball team! ~ Photo by Tim Erickson
By Jeannie Gregory
It was an impressive year for coach Kelly Delacher’s Rams volleyball team. They mowed their way through plenty of their competition to attain what only most teams can dream about – they made it all the way to the MHSAA State Finals. It was a magical year for Rockford, with a number of defining moments for a team that worked hard all year, bonded to become a well-oiled machine on the court, earned plenty of admirers for their grit and determination, and picked up plenty of titles and hardware along the way.
The team rolled to an 11-1 OK Red record, claiming a share of the conference crown – and going 35-1 for the past three years in one of the toughest conferences in the state. The Rams’ record was 40-11-1 on the season as they moved on to the MHSAA D1 Districts, where they continued their winning ways.
The Rams rolled over anyone they came in contact with on the other side of the net during their district run. Rockford was able to make it to the district finals by topping Forest Hills Northern 3-0 and Greenville 3-0. In the finals, they took on a tough Lowell team and fell behind initially, however they came screaming back to claim the match 3-2.
In the regionals, the Rams had their work cut out for them facing off against familiar foe Hudsonville in their first match. Rockford was impressive, as they came back from a huge deficit, sparking the crowd of loyal Ram fans. Rockford fought back and downed the Eagles 3-2 to earn the right to move on. In the finals Rockford faced another familiar adversary – the Grand Haven Bucs. The Rams made quick work of the Bucs, topping them 3-0 to move on to the state quarterfinals.
“We had an awesome run in the state tournament,” said head coach Kelly Delacher. “We have a tough road where seven out of eight teams were ranked in the top 20. It was an impressive three weeks by our team. There were a couple big moments....We were down 1-2 to No. 10 Lowell and came back to win in five during our district finals. Then the next round of Regionals we were down 0-2 and 22-24 in the third set against Hudsonville. With our backs seriously against the wall we battled back in the biggest comeback I have ever witnessed. We were led by our seniors, Lindsay Taylor and Emmy Webb who combined for over 55 kills.”
In the MHSAA D1 State Quarterfinals the Rams faced off against Richland Gull Lake and was able to easily dominate them by a 3-0 score, shocking plenty in the volleyball world with such an easy time in a state quarter. Rockford then faced off against a tough Northville team and beat them quite handily by a 3-1 score to earn the right to play in the State Finals. The Rams then took on the No. 2 ranked Lake Orion Dragons – who proved to be an extremely tough opponent and eventually topped the Rams 3-1.
“We had a great battle in our final four match against Northville, where we got some huge contributions from our whole team,” shared Delacher. “We then lost that tight match with Lake Orion in the State Finals. It was a great run and my players really came together as a team during the last three weeks of the season.”
Delacher took a minute to point out some of the magic he received from his players.
“Lindsay Taylor is the leader of our team,” he said. “She is an elite player who was awarded with an Under Armour All-American Award, as well as being named a National Player of the Week award during the playoffs. She is an explosive player with great understanding of the game. And she has a will to win and put the team on her back in many situations throughout the season. Emmy Webb is our other go-to offensive player who played her best during the state playoffs, hitting over .500 during that span. She is a fast, explosive jumper who rarely gets blocked. She is a competitive player who pushes the players around her to be better. Alyssa Judge has really turned it up late in the season with some great play. We rely upon her heavily in our serve receive and attacking the ball out of the front and back rows. She also does a great job of keeping the team loose during tight matches which is very important late in the year. Emilee Karelse was our setter who racked up impressive numbers guiding this team. She is a fluid setter and makes our offense run smoothly. She has a great knack for setting the person that is hot and did a great job of putting our hitters in great situations throughout the year.”
Delacher didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for his team’s banquet – his team’s season ended on Saturday, Nov. 17, and the banquet was Monday, Nov. 19. The team celebrated their incredible season, with plenty of memories they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Taylor was named team “MVP”, team “Most Spirited” went to Payton Milo, and team “Most Improved” was awarded to Megan Witte. The players also received state accolades after the tournament, with Taylor and Webb being named First Team All-State, and Karelse earning Third Team All-State honors.
The Rams will say good-bye to four seniors – Taylor, Judge, Karelse, and Webb, who carry plenty of talent and proved themselves time and time again on the court. Delacher acknowledged their contributions to his team, and his program.
“Our program was led by four awesome seniors that were on the floor the whole season,” he said. “They were passionate about the game and led by example. They have put in years of dedication to making themselves better and to making our program one of the best in the state.”