Braves collect tourney title

ESCANABA – The Gladstone Braves added another trophy to their collection Saturday, earning a 25-21, 20-25, 15-10 volleyball victory over the Marquette Redettes in the championship match of the Escanaba Elks Invitational.

Gladstone, which also won the Marquette Invitational two weeks ago, secured the decision this time by scoring the final three points.

“It’s always a confidence boost when you win an eight-team tournament,” said Braves’ coach Liz Gendron. “Only, the girls can’t seem to make it easy for themselves. We tend to start slow. It seems like the girls need to need to get the feel of the game. But once they settled down, they start making better decisions. I just wish the girls would realize how wonderful and talented they are.”

The Braves led the entire third set. Marquette, however, climbed within 12-10 on Taylor Ehle’s kill for a sideout.

“I thought our girls worked very hard,” said Marquette coach Mike Morgan. “I also thought our serving was very aggressive and level of play improved throughout the day.”

Marquette led 16-10 in the first set. But that’s when the Braves began to whittle away at their deficit.

Gladstone tied the count at 20 on Callie Jensen’s tip for a kill. But the Redettes then got a sideout for a 21-20 lead.

The Braves responded with five straight points, including three kills by Lexi Hongisto, with the junior middle hitter’s third kill of that series clinching the opener.

“Marquette came out strong,” said Gendron. “Their middle hitter created some problems. I thought Lexi really stepped up in the end. She crushed the ball and Summer Demeuse was all over the court. Callie and Lexi really connected in the middle. That combination worked well for us. “I thought our serving was good. But Marquette also has some good servers and our serve receives were a little off.”

The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the second set on Mackenzie Pardonnet’s tip for a kill.

Marquette then scored the next three points, surging ahead to stay.

Gladstone advanced to the title round by topping Esky (25-12, 25-19) in a semifinal match.

“We lacked communication in the first game,” said Esky coach Theresa Heidt. “But our communication improved and we started playing more as a team in the second set. We’re proud of the way the girls played as a whole. The chemistry on our team has improved. Only, we need to improve our passing and defense.”

Marquette dispatched Ishpeming (25-15, 18-25, 15-10) in the other semifinal.

“We won a five-set match against Menominee Thursday night and that gave us some momentum coming into this tournament,” said Morgan. “We’ve had some injuries this season. We’ve been scrambling.”

In pool play, the Braves split with Rudyard and Marquette and beat Negaunee.

The Eskymos beat Westwood and Manistique and fell to Ishpeming in their pool.

Esky visits Gladstone for the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night match Tuesday. Manistique hosts Gwinn Tuesday.