LAKE LINDEN - The home side asked for a lot and got it all Tuesday.
Lake Linden-Hubbell fought off three match points in the fifth set, then got back-to-back kills from Mandy Perreault to beat Houghton for the first time in six years in a 3-2 (25-15, 23-25, 25-23, 24-26, 16-14) thriller.
Already playing on their heels since failing to complete a comeback in the fourth set, the Lakes faced triple match point against after back-to-back hitting errors made it 14-11. Coach Karen Keranen called time-out.
Lake Linden-Hubbell volleyball players celebrate a 3-2 victory over Houghton Tuesday night. They include, from left, Chelsea Koepel, Mandy Perreault, Sarah Audette, Brooke Corrigan (11)?and Ciara Larson (10). For more photos, visit cu.mininggazette.com. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"I asked them a question. I said 'Who are you?' I am so tired of getting tentative.' I said, 'Do you have what it takes to pull out this game or not?' They said yes. I said 'Then show me. I get tired of doing this with Houghton every year.' And they showed me," Keranen said.
After a Brittni Kisul kill saved the first match point, Chelsea Koepel stepped to the service line and the Lakes went on a roll. The next two points went by the boards on Houghton errors, tying the match. With the game now in the balance, the Lakes turned to their steady senior.
"Mandy is my rock. She's my steady rock. She has the best kill percentage most of the time, she knows where to place the ball and she's steady," Keranen said.
Perreault had the kill to put LL-H in the lead, then went to the back left corner for the match-winner.
"Just right before that last ball went down, I was thinking, "Please, just please go down. I'll never do a bad thing in my life if that goes down right here," she said.
It was her 18th kill of the match.
"It's unlike anything else," she said of beating the Gremlins. "I mean, we've wanted to beat Houghton since I was a sophomore and to finally do it my senior year, at home is crazy. One of the best feelings I've ever had."
The Gremlins, who also killed off a match point against in set four, were left to rue squandered chances.
"On match point (at 14-13), we got the play we wanted, we made a poor set. The one before that, we got the set we wanted and made a poor swing. We just made way, way, way too many errors," coach John Christianson said.
The wild swings in quality didn't just take place in the fifth set for Houghton. The Gremlins got off to a poor start, trailing as badly as 22-9 in the opening set before losing 25-15.
Five LL-H service errors in set two gave them an opening to get back into the match. Houghton strung together five points to take a 22-16 lead and ride it back to level terms.
In the third, the edge faded away again. Kisul served two aces in a six-point run in the first rotation and Houghton played the rest of the set from behind. The Gremlins got within a point more than once, but never closer. Kisul closed it out with one of her 15 kills.
In the fourth, instead of going for the jugular, the Lakes slipped, trailing 16-5 midway through. Just when a fifth set on a sweltering night seemed inevitable, the Lakes racked up three separate four-point runs, tying the match at 21 on a Houghton hitting error. The Lakes took their first lead of the set at 23-22 and after an exchange of points, had a chance to close it out on their serve, but Kisul hit long. Blaire Zenner recorded a block kill on the following play and setter Natalie Datto successfully reached the back corner with a shot on set point.
Those shots are all well and good, but Houghton's reliance on placement, not power, was a sign of its downfall.
"Our concentration would go off for extended periods of time. We stopped moving our feet, stopped getting to the ball, we made poor decisions, which allowed the game, as it so often does, to the team that swings and swings in. They had a lot more swings than we did. We did a lot of shooting and a lot of tipping because we weren't in position to attack aggressively," Christianson said.
The Gremlins (3-3-1) got 10 kills apiece from Zenner and Elisa Jurmu, plus 33 assists from Datto. Defensively, libero Mackenzie Hietala recorded 24 digs and Zenner 14.
"I hope we learn that when we go to Gladstone on Saturday for the Rock (tournament), we're going to have to step it up considerably. We're going to have to pass the ball much, much better. And when we get the sets, we have to swing," Christianson said.
The Houghton freshmen (2-0) and JVs (2-1) won.
For LL-H, Erin Gast had a team-high 17 digs, Brooke Corrigan 13 and Kisul 11. Sophomore setter Sarah Audette posted 30 assists, while she and Kisul notched four aces apiece. Ciara Larson posted nine kills and 15 digs for the Lakes, who are back in action Thursday night at Ontonagon.
"Our coach just told us, 'This shows your character here guys.' You have to dig down deep and show them that you're a better team. It was close, but we did it," Perreault said.