Smith, Redettes spike Eskymos at home

ESCANABA – After already racking up several of her game high 18 kills Tuesday night, hard-hitting Tayler Smith caught the Eskymos defense off-guard early in the second set.

Smith went up for the ball at net-front and the Eskymos reflexively backed off to defend the oncoming spike, but Smith unexpectedly just tapped the ball over the net for an easy kill.

Escanaba had no answer for Smith and the streaking Redettes in their home finale, as Marquette went on to a 3-1 (25-21, 25-17 11-25, 25-19) volleyball victory.

“Tayler is a special player. She’ll go on to play at college somewhere, that’s her goal. She was on early,” said Redettes coach Mike Morgan. “She’s gotten 4-5 girls this year that have gotten caught around the 10-foot line on swings. You just don’t see players up here like that in the middle very often, but this year in the conference, we’ve been blessed with several.”

Smith racked up kills on Marquette’s first five points of the game and used her height to her advantage at net-front.

Escanaba coach Theresa Heidt was impressed.

“I absolutely love that girl. (Tayler) is a true athlete, all around, everything she does,” Heidt said. “She definitely put a hurt on us tonight. She’s wonderful to watch…definitely one of the top athletes in the U.P.”

Kills were hard to come by for Escanaba throughout the first two sets, but the Eskymos hung around and capitalized off several hitting and serving errors from the Redettes. That all came to a head during the third set, when Escanaba’s offense came alive in conjunction with Marquette errors.

“The errors that really got me were the serving errors,” said Morgan. “We’ve been serving strong the last three weeks, but we missed more tonight than we have been missing, on average.”

Escanaba had a 5-0 service run early by Syd Gafner, followed by another 5-0 run from Brittany Bruce four points later, and closed the set out with a crushing 7-0 run with Gafner serving again.

“I thought for sure we were going to come back and actually pull a win off tonight,” said Heidt. “Everything was good. Our hits were on, our passing was on, we didn’t have any errors, but then we kind of blew it with our serving in that last set.”

The fourth set was close early as each team traded hits, with Escanaba winning the important momentum-building long points. But with Marquette leading 11-9, the Redettes began to pull away with a 5-0 service run and Esky never recovered.

The Eskymos did make a late run with Marquette leading 22-15, taking four of the next five points, but two quick kills from Marquette closed it out.

“I’m proud of the girls,” said Heidt. “They’ve come a long way this season and each game they’ve improved a little bit, even though the numbers don’t agree with us, but we have improved.”

Escanaba will travel to face Stephenson Thursday in the regular season finale. The Eagles earned a share of the Great Northern Conference title, Monday with a victory over Menominee. Stephenson can win the GNC outright with a victory over Escanaba.

“It’s a tough conference, and when Stephenson can close out as conference champions, it’s amazing,” said Heidt. “The thing that my girls have against them, is their height. On average, everyone is so tall compared to us.

“We’ll practice hard this next weekend and hopefully we can pull ahead in our district game against Menominee.”

The Esky jayvees won 25-23, 25-23 and the Marquette freshmen won in three sets.