By Jacob Arvidson

MONTAGUE – Montague’s Emma Flagstead has earned many individual honors on the volleyball court – but the biggest one may still be on its way.LSJ Logo incert

Flagstead is one of 10 finalists for Michigan’s Miss Volleyball award, given annually to the state’s top senior player by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association.

Emma Flagstead

Emma Flagstead

The winner is announced in mid-November.

Montague head coach Shawn Bectel knew early on what Flagstead was capable of.

“When I first brought her up her freshman year, we talked about career goals and (the Miss Volleyball nomination) was actually one of them,” he said. “We had talked about this. Her and everybody else thought I was crazy, but I said, ‘Hey, if you keep on the path that we foresee, anything can happen.’ And it has.”

Flagstead, who was an All-Stater last year as a junior, is a big reason why the Wildcats stand a good chance of repeating as champions in the Class B district tournament, which is slated for this week at Orchard View High School.

Montague will open its title defense Tuesday against Oakridge at 7 p.m.

The state tournament will be a final bow for Flagstead, who has spent all four years of her high school career on the varsity squad.

“In the beginning I was just a freshman on a team full of seniors,” said Flagstead, who will study and play volleyball at Grand Valley State University next year. “My role then was to block, to be a good teammate and to learn.”

And learn she did.

This season alone Flagstead has 528 kills, 104 blocks, 164 digs and a hitting percentage of .347. She is less than 200 kills away from the 2,000 mark for her career.

Emma Flagstead lofts a shot over Whitehalls Allisyn Grams. Photo/Jason Goorman

Emma Flagstead lofts a shot over Whitehall’s Allisyn Grams during a match on Sept. 21.

“I’m expected to get the ball put away,” Flagstead said. “I love that role. That’s the perfect role for me, just trying to make the important plays and keeping everyone working together.”

Bectel said some teams will throw two or even three blockers in front of the net to stop Flagstead, but still she finds a way to get the crucial kill when it’s needed.

“It helps the rest of the offense because when we don’t go to her, it leaves single blocks on the rest of my hitters,” the coach said.

The only thing that can seemingly stop the 6-foot-3 middle hitter is injury – and it did for a while.

A torn stomach muscle sidelined Flagstead for 12 matches this season. The Wildcats dropped three matches during that time, one being their lone conference loss of the season.

“It’s my last year, so having to sit any games or any practices really stinks,” Flagstead said. “I tried to be positive, but I missed so many games – it was bad. I didn’t like it very much. It was really hard to do because I only have so many (games) left.”

After resting, Flagstead is back in the lineup. And though the injury may have affected Montague record-wise, Bectel thinks it has made Flagstead a more complete player.

“She’s actually playing smarter, to be honest,” Bectel said. “She’s actually hitting at a higher percentage than she was before she was injured. I think she’s changed her game a little bit. She can bring the power if she wants, but she’s also not afraid to bring the finesse part of it. It’s made her more deadly.”

Flagstead has led the Wildcats to a 37-14-2 overall record and a West Michigan Conference championship.

Flagstead expects her team to make a deep postseason run over the next few weeks, possibly even farther than the regional final appearance the Wildcats made a year ago.

“Our attitudes have a lot do with how we play,” Flagstead said. “We have to have good attitudes and have everybody give it their all every game.”