Prep volleyball: Whitens leads Jets’ rally over Mid Pen

POWERS – Paige Whitens was a force to reckon with Tuesday night, helping the North Central Jets rally past the Mid Peninsula Wolverines 3-2 (25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 25-16, 15-9) in a dual Central U.P./Skyline Conference volleyball match.

The senior middle hitter collected 16 kills, including at least 10 for sideouts. Classmate Morgan Wells finished with five kills in the Jets’ season-opener.

A kill by Wells gave the Jets a 14-9 advantage in the fifth set. Whitens then scored the final point on a serve receive error.

“Paige plays from the 10-foot line very well and that’s how she got many of her kills,” said Jets’ coach Andy DeBock. “That’s something we have seen here in quite a while. Morgan also stepped up big time.”

The deciding set was tied at 6. But junior Laura Gogolewski hit five straight service points, including two aces, to put the Jets ahead to stay 11-6.

Mid Pen trimmed its deficit to 12-9 on senior Kelsey Shope’s tip for a kill before the Jets scored the final three points.

A hitting error enabled the Wolverines to secure the third set.

The Wolverines, however, started the fourth with a serving error and senior setter Kennedy Faccio followed with a four-point run to put the Jets up 5-0.

Mid Pen was still within 12-9 following junior Hunter Branstrom’s block on Faccio.

The Jets then responded with an 11-3 run, gaining an insurmountable 23-12 on another of Whitens’ kills.

“We weren’t having much luck blocking and pulled the girls back from the net,” said DeBock. “I think that made a difference in the last two sets. Our serving also picked up. It was an exciting and frustrating night at the same time. But the girls pulled together. We had some of the best hitting we’ve had in a while. The girls controlled their areas very well.”

In the first set, senior Marissa Westlund served an ace to put the Wolverines up 20-16.

North Central, however, finished the opener with a 9-2 run. Faccio finished that set with a three-point run, including an ace to give the Jets a 23-22 lead.

“The kids tend to get overly cautious,” said Mid Pen coach Traci Lyle. “We started playing not to lose and fell apart. We’ve been working hard on slowing things down and setting it up. I thought we communicated and moved well on the floor.”

Faccio finished with eight aces, four kills and 22 assists. Freshman RayAnn LaFord added five aces and eight digs.

“RayAnn’s serving was very consistent,” said DeBock. “Kennedy also served well. A lot of girls stepped up for us tonight.”

Beside her kills, Whitens led on defense with 12 digs. Wells added seven.

Shope and senior Christina Hanson led the Wolverines with five kills apiece. Branstrom collected 11 blocks and Shope had eight.

“Hunter and Kelsey did a real good job at the net,” said Lyle. “They’re working on getting their timing down. All of our kids are working hard at covering blocks and hits.”

Seinor Kaitlyn Klenow led the Wolverines on defense with 10 digs. Westlund and Hanson added seven apiece and Shope had six.

Mid Pen, which won the jayvee match (25-23, 25-14), hosts Forest Park Tuesday.

The Jets resume Thursday by hosting Rapid River.