New look Braves on a roll

GLADSTONE – The Braves are really starting to roll and they’re putting their Great Northern Conference opponents on notice.

A few days after surprising the field at the Marquette Invitational, Gladstone, aside from a second set hiccup, dominated Marquette in a 4-1 (25-13, 23-25, 25-14, 25-10) victory, Tuesday night.

“I think they are finally understanding how this team needs to gel and work to stay focused,” said Gladstone head coach Liz Gendron of her team’s resurgance. “They’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen a lot smarter hits, smarter plays. Overall, they’re becoming a more knowledgable team, which makes them a better percentage hitting team.”

A big reason for the recent turnaround is Summer Demeuse’s recent transition from outside hitter to libero. Demeuse looked like the Braves’ top performer for most of the night, hitting anything that came near her and also having success serving. The rest of the team noticably performed better with the new configuration as well.

“Absolutely,” said Gendron. “The first pass is the most important. It’s getting where it needs to go. (Summer) came into this match a little nervous for some reason and I had to calm her down a bit, but she’s been amazing in her new role.

“Giving up being an outside hitter to move to libero, you don’t get much praise,” Gendron continued. “I’ve always tried to give her the shout out, because it all starts with her.”

Teammate and team captain Callie Jensen agreed that the team chemistry is much improved with Demeuse at libero.

“Our passes are amazing now,” she said. “It all starts with the pass and (Summer) is doing a real good job out there, so now that we have the pass going, we can get good hits down.”

On the other side of the net, the Redettes were missing their only setter, Courtney McGovern, who suffered a concussion against Stephenson. Head coach Mike Morgan was also absent as he was taking McGovern to the hospital. Katt Garvick coached the team in his place.

The Braves’ advantage was evident, as a flurry of errors contributed to the lopsided scores in sets 1, 3 and 4.

Gladstone’s serving on the other hand was nearly perfect. The Braves had eight runs of five or more throughout the four sets, including an epic 10-0 run from Jensen in the fourth set, and missed just two serves all night.

The Redettes showed signs of life in the second set, when they rallied multiple times throughout for the victory. The Braves led 8-3 early but a nice run from Hunter Viitala and some monster kills from Hannah Milke got Marquette right back in it. Even when Gladstone held a late 22-18 lead, the undaunted Redettes came up with a final surge with Milke on the serve, scoring the set’s final seven points.

Hitting errors and mental mistakes however, caught up with Marquette down the stretch.

“Tonight we just had a lot of different variables factor into our loss,” said Garvick. “We had our only setter get a concussion last week, we had a different coach tonight because Mike was taking her to the hospital, we had a jayvee setter step up, and we had a non-setter set for a while. So tonight was just a mixture of everything put together, but there were definitely a lot of beautiful moments too.”

For now the Braves are feeling like a confident bunch.

“I think it’s going to be a big turning point in our season,” said Jensen of the Marquette Tournament victory. “We kind of had a slow start and that boosted our confidence and gave us a lot to look forward to in the future, knowing we can win.”

Note: The Gladstone Braves will hold a “Spike Out Breast Cancer” game on Oct. 15 against the Escanaba Eskymos. Pink t-shirts/equipment with the Braves cancer logo on it will be available for sale through both volleyball teams. Any donations will also be accepted. The team is making an effort to fill the gym with everyone in pink t-shirts. Both the team uniforms and the pink game ball will be available to purchase through a silent auction before and during the match. All proceeds will be going to local breast cancer patients.