Young Bulldogs swept by Mercy in volleyball regional

Brighton players and coach Shelley Sims share one last huddle after Tuesday's loss. (Photo by Tim Robinson)
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HOWELL — The Brighton volleyball team celebrated how far it got this season and got a sobering reminder of what it needs to learn in Tuesday’s Class A regional semifinal at Howell High School.

The Bulldogs got off to an ice-cold start, falling behind 16-7 at one point in the first game, and, while they made a comeback and played tough, they didn’t have enough to get past Farmington Hills Mercy, 25-20, 25-18, 25-18.

“I think we were afraid to make mistakes and certain people were afraid to make mistakes, instead of carrying the same energy they had in the week of districts,” Brighton coach Shelley Sims said. “It’s unfortunate to see the same people trying to build that little cheer squad, and the resistance of those people who aren’t willing to partake in in it just yet.”

Brighton's Celia Cullen goes up for a spike as Gabrielle Tschannen looks on during Tuesday's match. Cullen had 13 kills and nine assists in a losing effort. (Photo by Tim Robinson)
Brighton’s Celia Cullen goes up for a spike as Gabrielle Tschannen looks on during Tuesday’s match. Cullen had 13 kills and nine assists in a losing effort. (Photo by Tim Robinson)

The Bulldogs, playing in their first regional in three years, came out tentative and the Marlins took advantage, advancing to Thursday’s regional final against Novi, which swept Walled Lake Central in the other semifinal.

Was it, Sims was asked, a case of perfect being the enemy of the good for her players?

“That would be exactly it,” she said. “I think my usual suspects had good nights. We started out rocky on serve-receive, and then I think we never really put a consistent run together where we got momentum.”

Sims said her team appeared ready right up until game time.

“As soon as it  became game time, I think certain people had a deer-in-the-headlights look,” she said. “Instead of having the will to win, we were more about being afraid to lose, to be the one to make a mistake.”

Brighton players and coach Shelley Sims share one last  huddle after Tuesday's loss. (Photo by Tim Robinson)
Brighton players and coach Shelley Sims share one last huddle after Tuesday’s loss. (Photo by Tim Robinson)

“We just didn’t play our game,” said senior Gabi Tschannen, who had seven kills in her final high school match. “We started out a little slow, and by the time we started coming back, it was a little too late.”

Indeed, the Bulldogs got out to a five-point lead in the third set, but Mercy made them pay for mistakes and pulled away down the stretch.

“They don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Sims said. “They have a well-rounded offense and they’re going to eep swinging. They served very tough tonight, and that’s what happens when you get to this round. You’re going to see teams that are all good, and they’re all going to serve tough, and they’re all going to have big hitters. You’ve got to be willing to step in and take that hit, whether it’s serve-receive or defense or be the first line of defense at the net.”

The Bulldogs have a lot of young players on the roster, and Sims hopes Tuesday’s experience will pay dividends down the road.

“It’s hard for (seniors) like Gabi,” she said, “and the good thing is Brighton has (freshman) Celia Cullen the next three years. She showed no fear tonight, and hopefully she’ll be a ringleader in leading the charge in the future.”