Class D volleyball: Mustangs surge, win first district title since 2006

RAPID RIVER – The Munising Mustangs have gone seven years between district titles. They accomplished that feat Thursday night with a team that featured four freshmen in prominent roles.

Munising may have gotten a tougher test than expected against the hard-hitting Rapid River Rockets but limited its mistakes and transitioned well in a 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-9) victory to hand the Mustangs their first district title since 2006. .

Junior Karlee Decet had seven kills and freshman Michaela Peramaki came up with four blocks. Two more freshmen, Bailey Downs and Frankie Mattson had two and three kills respectively.

“They’ve been solid all year mentally. I couldn’t ask for more,” said Mustangs coach Josh Cole of his four freshmen. “They’re a good group of friends and they’re always in the gym, all summer, every day. Them being together all the time really helps out.”

The Rockets brought their “A” game at the right time, playing their most inspired volleyball of the season when it counted.

“The first two games was definitely the best we’ve played all season,” said Rockets coach Lisa Kanyuh. “We had good intensity, good plays, one or two could have gone in a different direction.”

In a back and forth first set, Munising broke an early 5-5 tie to take a 10-5 advantage, but the Rockets stormed back on an 8-1 run and led 20-16 and 24-22 late. The Mustangs however took control after a time out and took four straight points, winning the set on back-to-back Rockets hitting errors.

Rapid River led 10-9 and 16-14 in the second set before Munising surged ahead on a 4-0 run. The Mustangs didn’t relinquish the lead from there. The Rockets stayed close, getting within 20-19 but the Mustangs top server Megan Watson came up after a sideout and served the last four points to end the set.

Savannah Stenlund led the Rockets with 10 kills. Hannah Kanuyh added six kills and Josie Miller had four kills and three blocks.

The big difference for Munising was stepping up in the clutch and playing solid defense down the stretch.

“We’ve been pretty consistent all year scrapping out on defense” said Cole. “We don’t let too much hit the floor which helps out a lot. It’s just getting the younger players, the four freshmen, to execute a little more. That’s what a coach wants. They did alright though.”

The Rockets had their share of hitting errors, but as Kanyuh said, she’d rather have her team go down swinging than pushing the ball over the net.

“I told them I’d rather see them hit six bricks up and take a swing then to start a tipping war. Munising does that, they shoot to the corners, and if you get into a tipping war with a tipping team, you’re going to lose every single time,” Kanyuh said. “We worked on defending tips in practice and we had really good defense in transition movement. Things just didn’t go our way with one or two points and we couldn’t get it in those first two games.”

As the Mustangs get set to face Stephenson in the Class D regional, the Rockets can look toward next season.

“Munising has good athletes when you look at them, they’re going through a streak where they’ve been blessed with good athletes,” she said. “We’re a young team. It sucks for the seniors, but we’ll be back strong next year.”