Surging Braves serve revenge

MENOMINEE – A hard-fought five-game loss to Menominee on its home floor Sept. 24 lit a fire under Gladstone heading into Monday’s rematch with the Maroons.

The Braves hit the court with intensity and primed for a payback and handed Menominee its first Great Northern Conference loss in a stunning 25-29, 25-22, 25-16 sweep.

The Maroons (6-1 GNC) had swept four of their previous six GNC matches.

“The girls were ready tonight,” Gladstone coach Liz Gendron said. “We’ve been working on our serving and hitting aggressively.”

Gladstone (3-3 GNC) never gave up the lead in the three games.

The Braves were the more aggressive team from the opening serve, opening up an 11-5 lead in the first game. A spike kill by Jessica Beaudry, an ace from Kenly Milam and the spot-on setting of Callie Jensen set the tone and Lexi Hongisto sealed the first game with a spike kill.

“Callie Jensen really did a good job of running the offense,” Gendron said of her senior setter. “She was the offensive star tonight. She set it up where they weren’t expecting it.”

Gladstone built a 12-5 margin in the second game behind a pair of aces from Breanne Aird, a Summer Demeuse ace and the front-line smashes of Beaudry.

Menominee rallied to tie the game at 18 as Hongisto sparked a three-point surge by the Braves.

Brooke Janquart rocketed an ace past the Braves to even the game at 22, but a sideout swung the lead back to Gladstone and a Beaudry kill gave the Braves a 24-22 lead. A serve into the net opened the door for the Maroons, but Menominee promptly let the opening slip away with a serve into the net.

Hongisto had an ace and Katie Belonga rejected a Maroon hit with a block kill to lead Gladstone to a 12-1 lead in the final game.

“(Belonga) had some very timely blocks for us tonight,” said Gendron.

An ace from Samantha Krah spurred an 8-2 Maroon run, but Milan stalled the flurry with an ace and Aird’s cross-court hit hiked the lead back to 18-9.

Gendron noted that the play of Demeuse at libero has been a key to the Braves’ improvement.

“Since we put in a libero in the middle of the season, it’s made a big difference,” Gendron said.

Menominee won the freshmen match 2-0 and the junior varsity match 25-7, 25-3.

Gladstone resumes Thursday at Kingsford.