ESPN RISE takes a look at the teams to watch this month in the greater Detroit area:
Girls' Volleyball -- Marian
Coach Irick Gardner knows there are two things the
Marian girls' volleyball team needs to do in order to
return to the Class A state title game -- the site of last
year's heartbreaking loss to Jenison. "The biggest challenge
for this team,"Gardner says, "is to focus and not
expect it to happen simply because it happened last
year. We're going to have to earn it." The second,
according to Gardner, is a laid-back approach that was
the key to last year's success. But as is always the case,
there is a third factor -- talent. And there's no shortage
of that on the Marian roster. Junior Rachel Charles, one
of two starters who earned playing time as a freshman,
is the team's libero, and she continues to improve with
every practice and every game. "She's more seasoned,"
Gardner says. "I've heard her taking charge. She's
matured and she's taken over the back row in a leadership
role." Perhaps the team's most intimidating presence
is junior Alex Cocklin, who Gardner refers to as the
team's "terminator" and is a big hitter at the net. Junior
Emily Mandziara, who also saw valuable playing time
when she was a freshman, will be a pivotal contributor
this season. "She's one of the most competitive players
on the team," Gardner says. "She's certainly going to
play a key role for us." Senior Abby Lovell and juniors
Rachel Melcher and Erin Cooney will be vital to the
team's success this year as well.
Boys' Soccer -- Avondale
It's tough to end a season with a shootout loss in the playoffs. That is the burden carried by Avondale
into this season, but there is a silver lining -- several talented players return this season for a chance at
redemption. Senior forwards Bill Othman, who is an All-State first team selection, and Brett Lentz, who
made the second team, should give the team plenty of offensive firepower. In the back, senior goalkeeper
Bryce Dobbins anchors the defensive effort and is among the state's best keepers.
Girls' Cross Country -- Lumen Christi
Just two points separated Lumen Christi's Division 3 state title last year from what would have been a
disappointing runner-up finish. This year's team might not have much room for error either, but that
doesn't mean the girls aren't favorites to win it again. Senior Cara Cremeans, who was fifth overall last season,
returns to lead the Titans. Sophomores Bekah Stanton and Jill McEldowney both scored for the varsity
squad last year and both runners should be improved this season as well.
Football -- O.L. St. Mary's
Fans in Orchard Lake may be in for a treat this season. St. Mary's is a team on a mission, boasting a roster
stacked with players who have exceptional playmaking ability and who execute well on both sides of
the ball. The offense should click on all cylinders all season long, as senior tight end Dion Sims and senior
wide receiver Rodney Woodland are both excellent targets for junior signal-caller Robert Bolden.
Senior Christian Brandt anchors the protection for Bolden on the offensive line.
GIRLS' SOCCER -- LAKE ORION
The Dragons could be tournament-bound behind senior forward Niki Read.
BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY -- HILLSDALE
Look for senior Joe McAvoy to contend for a Division 3 state individual title.
GIRLS' GOLF -- SEAHOLM
The runner-up Maples will look to move up in Division 2, led by senior Alexandra Lipa.
BOYS'TENNIS -- ROCHESTER ADAMS
Senior Jason Chen will look to lead the Highlanders up the Division 2 standings.