HOUGHTON - Houghton, L'Anse and Dollar Bay represent three different calibers on the volleyball court, and the results in a Tuesday triangular between the three teams reflect that.
Houghton, the hosts, let up a bit in the third set of the opening match against L'Anse, but dominated the other three in a 3-1 WestPAC win (25-11, 25-13, 22-25, 25-12).
Then the Purple Hornets stayed on the court and overcame a sloppy effort to win 2-0 (25-20, 25-17) over Dollar Bay and the fourth-year Bays' program.
L’Anse’s Brianna Mayo (7) tips the volleyball over the net as Dollar Bay’s Jamie Sertich goes up for a block attempt and Julia Daavettila looks on in the middle match of Tuesday’s volleyball triangular at Houghton. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Dollar Bay then put up a strong effort in a 25-18 first-set loss to Houghton before the Gremlins' junior-led lineup kicked it into high gear to polish off a 2-0 match win with a 25-5 second-set win.
"I was able to get my juniors more experience and Dollar Bay was able to get a couple matches in. That's why we like to do these kinds of things when we can," Houghton coach John Christianson said. "It's the second year we've done it, and I think we'll keep doing it."
The Gremlins used their seniors against the Purple Hornets and opened up a quick 2-0 match lead, but L'Anse didn't cave in that easily.
"I pretty much told them after the second game, 'Do you really want to go down like this?'" L'Anse coach Jennifer Wilson said. "'You had this goal that you wanted to take one (game) from (Houghton) and you're not fighting.' I told them if they wanted it they had to fight for it, and they motivated themselves."
Christianson was disappointed to see his team ease up on its third-set serves, but he noticed a more determined Purple Hornet squad that passed Houghton's serves better and got better swings. But the veteran coach and experienced hosts quickly took care of business in a 25-12 final-set win.
"The girls turned the intensity up a little bit in the fourth set. We need to play at a certain level all the time no matter who we're playing, and that's one of the things we need to work on," Christianson said.
Blaire Zenner had 13 kills in the match while Elisa Jurmu added eight. Natalie Datto tallied 31 assists, Mackenzie Hietala added 26 digs and Emma Huhta had a match-high four aces.
L'Anse was led by Valerie Rajala's eight kills, Heather McCarthy and Rebecca Roth's eight assists, Shantell Ekdahl's three aces and Sam Cangemi and Roth's seven digs.
In its next match, L'Anse struggled to pull away from the Bays, and the first set was tied 16-16 before the Purple Hornets pulled away late with four aces to win 25-20.
The Bays had a 15-14 lead in the second set as well, but L'Anse rattled off a string of nine straight points, including five aces by Ekdahl.
Rebecca Hulkonen had three kills and Roth had five assists for L'Anse in the DB match. Julia Daavettila led the Bays with five aces and nine assists against L'Anse. Kellee Beggs also contributed four kills.
"When we played L'Anse I was really proud of the way the girls played," Dollar Bay coach Emily Viola said. "They have improved a lot. We just have to be more consistent with everything. That's going to come with more experience as we're building the program.
"It's a good experience for the girls to go against teams that have had their programs since middle school to see what they can do and the potential they have when they start volleyball early."
The young Bays (whose roster includes nine ninth and 10th graders) learned even more from Houghton's deep squad, and they actually earned a 15-14 lead in the opening set before the Gremlins put together three separate runs of at least three points, including a five-point set clincher.
Houghton truly showed its prowess in the final set of the triangular, scoring 17 of the last 18 points in a 25-5 win.
Jurmu had nine kills in the match for Houghton, while Kenna Farrey contributed 13 assists and six aces.
Daavettila was impressive again for Dollar Bay, tacking on three kills, five assists and two blocks. Jamie Sertich had five digs for the Bays.
Dollar Bay is back in action next Monday against Ewen-Trout Creek.
Houghton challenges West Iron County Thursday. L'Anse heads to the Northland Pines Invitational this Saturday.