Braves have strong showing at The Rock, finish second

GLADSTONE – A valiant effort paid off for the Gladstone volleyball team Saturday as it earned the runner-up trophy in The “Rock” Invitational.

Houghton kept its share of the Rock for the fourth straight year, topping the Braves 25-13, 25-19 in the title match.

“I’m very proud of what the girls accomplished,” said Gladstone coach Liz Gendron. “They (Houghton) have a few tall girls, but I thought we played well on defense.”

The Braves trailed only 20-19 in the second set following a service ace by senior Callie Jensen, who had served for four consecutive points.

Houghton then got a sideout and secured the decision behind a four-point run from senior Ashlyn Kero.

Earlier in that set, Kero hit a five-point run which enabled the Gremlins to gain an 11-6 advantage.

“Our lengthy service runs were the difference, and that run by Ashlyn got us going in the second set,” said Houghton coach John Christianson. “When you can get 5-6 points at a time, you can get to 25 pretty fast. If you can hold your opponent to one or two points at a time, it takes a long time for them to get to 25. I’m pleased with how we played as a team. Our girls improved throughout the day and were playing at a higher level at the end of the day. We didn’t play well in our (3-1) loss to Lake Linden on Tuesday. This is a big boost for us.”

Houghton finished the first set behind a seven-point run by junior Sydney Dillinger, whose block gave the Gremlins a sideout and an 18-13 cushion to set up that run.

It didn’t take Houghton long to gain the upper hand in the first set as it gained an 11-5 advantage on a kill by senior middle hitter Elisa Jurma.

“We started slowly in the final match,” said Gendron. “You can’t give a team like Houghton a 4-5 point lead to start a set. Once they get that kind of a lead, it’s very hard to catch them.”

During the final run, Gladstone senior Jessica Beaudry slipped and fell, re-injuring her lower back and forcing her out of the match. She is questionable for Thursday’s dual match at Escanaba.

The Braves reached the title match with a 25-23, 25-20 conquest of Gwinn.

Gwinn closed within 22-20 on a Braves’ hitting error in the nightcap. Gladstone, however, didn’t allow the Modeltowners to get any closer.

Houghton advanced by rallying past rival Hancock 17-25, 25-15, 25-11 in the other semifinal.

In pool play, Gladstone swept Rapid River (25-11, 25-11), Hancock (25-15, 25-19) and Westwood (25-11, 25-16) and split with Ishpeming (25-13, 25-27).

Beaudry was Gladstone’s leader at the net with 39 kills and four blocks. Senior Summer Demeuse added 19 kills and junior Lexi Hongisto had 16 kills and two blocks.

Jensen hit nine service aces and collected 62 assists. Demeuse led on defense with 26 digs, followed by Jensen 24, Aird 21, Hongisto 20 and Beaudry 17.

Escanaba salvaged a 16-25, 25-22 split with Norway after falling to Marquette (26-24, 25-15), Gwinn (25-23, 25-18) and Houghton (25-15, 25-19).

Senior Sydney Gafner helped the Eskymos gain the upper hand in their last set with a five-point run which gave them a 23-19 lead. She started that run with an ace, which tied the score with Norway. Senior Alexa Langsford then provided a kill to put the Esky ahead to stay.

“We decided to have a little energy in the end,” said Esky coach Theresa Heidt. “A lack of communication hurt us. We also had trouble controlling the ball.”

Senior Kamille Fritz led the Eskymos with six kills. Classmate Emily Dykowski added two and junior Alyssa Polequin had 18 assists.

“Alyssa has been real consistent for us at libero,” said Heidt. “She plays hard and knows her role on the floor.”

The Eskymos host Negaunee Tuesday.

Rapid River salvaged a split with Westwood 20-25, 25-23 in its finale. Besides falling to Gladstone, the Rockets also bowed to Ishpeming (25-13, 25-18) and Hancock (25-13, 25-15).

“It’s always good to end on a high note,” said Rockets’ coach Lisa Kanyuh. “We had a relatively young team out there. Erin Anderson did a phenomenal job in the middle. Rachel LaCosse did well for us in the last set and Erika Schwartz and Hannah Kanyuh did well running our offense. Although, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

The Rockets resume Tuesday by hosting Mid Peninsula and Big Bay de Noc in a triangular meet.

Gladstone – Beaudry (six aces, 39 kills, four blocks, four assists, 17 digs); Hongisto (six aces, 16 kills, two blocks, 20 digs); Demeuse (five aces, 19 kills, five assists, 26 digs); Jensen (nine aces, eight kills, 62 assists, 24 digs); Aird (seven aces, six kills, three assists, 21 digs); Belonga (five aces, three kills, one assist, four digs); Pardonnet (five aces, one kill, two blocks, one assist).