PORTAGE, Mich. — For the first time since 2016, the Portage Central volleyball team will play in a state quarterfinal match.
Despite all of the history being made for the Mustangs this season, the players aren't feeling a lot of pressure and are simply happy to be back together.
"We thought with the three week pause and two week extension that this was over," said head coach, Kayleen Grand, "we didn't think this was going to happen."
The team is back to practice for the first time in over five weeks, sporting shirts that say revenge tour' and 'why not us?' as they embrace their role as underdogs in Division 1.
"We lost to a lot of opponents in the beginning of the season that we thought we should have beat," said All-State senior Jordan MacDonald, "so we're on the revenge tour, playing them again and succeeding."
The team has raised a lot of eyebrows this postseason, beating a lot of solid teams.
"We ended up beating Mattawan in the first round of districts, who we haven't beaten in four or five years," Grand said, "then we beat Portage Northern in the district championship, who beat us soundly earlier in the season."
Not only are the Mustangs getting set to play for a state quarterfinal, but they've made it through this emotional roller coaster of a season.
"If anything comes out of this season, it's that we have 14 young women who understand adversity more than any other team I've coached before," added Grand.
Not many people expected the Mustangs to make it to the state quarterfinal which is why the players are enjoying every moment together and aren't feeling the pressure of the tournament.
"We haven't been this far in the tournament in a while, so we don't feel the pressure to get back there," said junior Mehl Hansen.
"We're keeping the pressure off of ourselves saying 'why not us, we're the underdogs,'" MacDonald added, "we don't have to win this match, we just have to play as hard as we can. Every point we lose we're like, 'we're good, just shake it off.'"
The players say no matter what happens when they take on Lowell on January 5th, they're going to soak it in every second together.
"A lot of us have played together growing up over the years in club, so one final ride is really cool," Hansen smiled.
And Coach Grand says she still can't believe the season is returning.
"It's like a story, you couldn't write it unless you were living it and we're living it," she said, "we're living the opporutunity to play the biggest match that any of them have ever played in high school volleyball."
The state quarterfinals will be played on January 5 with the state semifinals and finals played on January 8 and 9 at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
EDIT: The MHSAA has announced on Tuesday that high school sports are once again suspended as they wait for testing material, which will push back the state quarterfinal, semifinals, and finals for all fall tournaments.
MHSAA has suspended practices for fall sports teams that restarted this week. They are waiting for the tests from the MDHHS that are supposed to arrive next week. Athletes will be allowed to practice following a negative test. Game dates are expected to be adjusted as well.— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) December 22, 2020