In only its second year of MHSAA competition, the Charyl Stockwell Preparatory Academy volleyball team established itself as one of the best Class D teams in the state this season.
The season ended last week as the young CSPA team took No. 4-ranked Lansing Christian to five sets in the Class D district finals before falling, 18-25, 25-18, 20-25, 25-15, 7-15.
It was the end to a remarkable season for CSPA, a charter school in Brighton. After winning just five matches last season, the Sentinels exploded this fall, posting a 32-12 record and earning a trip to the district finals. CSPA swept Morrice in the opening round of district play to advance to the finals against Lansing Christian.
For its efforts, CSPA was ranked No. 11 in the state – an incredible feat for a team in just its second season of MHSAA competition.
Coach Paula Gallentine said she was sad to see the season end, but incredibly proud of what her team accomplished.
“For a short moment, my heart is heavy for my team and my seniors who played the last two weeks – the most important two weeks of the season – with three injuries from a car accident and one player with the flu,” Gallentine said. “But I quickly let that go knowing I can’t hang on to things that are out of my control. Despite our slight misfortune, this very young CSPA team still nearly managed to steal a 3-peat district title from a senior-laden team with three All-State players.
“Our character, teamwork, work ethic and grit are our competitive advantage and our future is very bright. That near win against Lansing Christian perhaps was a blessing, only making us hungrier than ever. I am incredibly proud of these 11 young women, led by our two amazing seniors, Ashton Lighthall and third-year Captain Celena Pitcher. Their energy and leadership will be greatly missed.”
Gallentine also singled out her assistant coach, Scott Pitcher.
“Scott’s integrity and passion are contagious and the value he adds to our program is huge,” Gallentine said.
Seniors Ashton Lighthall and Celena Pitcher were also sad to see the season end, but took great pride in the team’s accomplishments.
“I have been amazed at the progress our volleyball team has made this year,” Lighthall said. “There were times when things got difficult, but I would tell myself that we can do this and I can do it as well. It just requires patience, self-discipline, and motivation to achieve the level of success that we had this year. We did it and I am very proud to have been part of this great team.”
Lighthall was one of the team’s most consistent servers all season, serving at an 89.2 percent clip – tops on the team.
Celena Pitcher, meanwhile, had an outstanding all-around season, recording 126 service aces, 172 kills, 418 assists and 199 digs.
“I’m thankful for all the life lessons that Coach Paula and playing volleyball have taught me,” Pitcher said.
With only two seniors graduating, the future is definitely looking good for CSPA’s volleyball team.
“We’re a young team with a very bright future,” Gallentine said.