HOUGHTON - Thursday, Calumet settled itself down then shut its opponent down.
After a stuttering start, the Copper Kings found an unstoppable high gear to win 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-10, 25-9).
The Copper Kings lost the first five and last four points of the first set, but before allowing any fans to seriously consider an upset may be brewing, found their bearings around the halfway point. By the end of the third set, Calumet rolled through a run of 12 straight points and 20 of 21.
Calumet’s Ellen Twardzik blocks an attack from Houghton’s Blaire Zenner for a kill during the fourth set of Thursday’s WestPAC?match at Houghton. Twardzik had 3 1/2 blocks in the Copper Kings’ 3-1 win. For more photos, visit cu.mininggazette.com. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"Everybody in the gym knew that our team was nervous and that comes from respecting every opponent we face. But with that respect, you need to have confidence in yourself and we will work on developing that so we don't put ourselves in that position," Calumet coach Lisa Twardzik said.
For the Gremlins, this one got away fast.
"When the passing disappeared, everything just went. Either we were passing it right up to their front row, so they could just hammer it down, or we were passing it so poorly that all we could do is free ball it over to them. When you're playing a team as good and solid as Calumet, if you give them free balls, they're just going to pound it down at you," coach John Christianson said.
Houghton's struggles gave Calumet's potent hitters opportunities to swing away and they did. Lexie Rowe had her second double-digit kill match of the week with a team-best 12, while Ellen Twardzik and Kristy Lasanen notched nine apiece.
"Once we connect, it's easy to just keep the momentum moving," Ellen Twardzik said.
Before a boisterous crowd, the first push of momentum went to the hosts.
They led 5-0 early, and though the middle of the first set was devoid of any defining runs, remained mostly in control. Calumet briefly tied it at 15, but Houghton was up 22-20 when Mackenzie Hietala pounded out three straight serves and put the Gremlins up a set with her ace on set point.
Calumet actually scored the first three points of set two, but never made a major move. After a 10-10 tie, both sides inched their way toward 25 without putting more than two straight points together until a Houghton service error decided it in Calumet's favor.
The third was looking iffy but manageable for the Gremlins at 12-6 down, but Houghton ran off four, then seven straight points to blow the set out.
"I was looking for somebody to step up and give me a pass. That's what we've got to have. We've got to have some people in that situation that are going to step up and give us a good pass, so we get a good set, so we get a good spike," Christianson said.
As if to symbolize the general discombobulation the Gremlins were in, the first point of set four was over before it started when the referee whistled Houghton for being improperly aligned.
It didn't get much better. Terra Erkkila served a pair of aces as the Kings went up 5-0. Only a Blaire Zenner kill interrupted Calumet's onslaught, which then continued with eight more points, incluing two kills from Rowe and a block from Ellen Twardzik for an insurmountable 13-1 lead.
"Seriously, it was just settling down, communicating and being decisive out there," coach Twardzik said.
As soon as Calumet's third win of the WestPAC season was on ice, the screaming from the direction of the visiting locker room was audible in the gym. Even if most of the Gremlins who eliminated them from the Class C districts in 2011 are graduated, any win at Houghton is noteworthy for the Blue and Gray.
"Memories last for a lifetime. So, it's a great rivalry between Calumet and Houghton and it creates wonderful memories for them," coach Twardzik said.
Ellen Twardzik added 3 1/2 blocks to her nine kills, while Lasanen had a team-best 11 digs. Kayleen Anderson posted 35 assists.
Houghton's leader on both ends was Zenner, with 10 kills, three blocks and 22 digs. Elisa Jurmu added six kills, and both she and Bronwyn Nettell recorded 10 digs apiece. Natalie Datto had 18 assists.
Both teams will be at the Articatz Invitational in Marquette Saturday.
Houghton won the freshman match 2-1, Calumet the JV match 2-0.