HOUGHTON - The Houghton volleyball team was clicking on all levels Thursday, and the result was a clinical 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-14) WestPAC victory over West Iron County.
The service game, sharp passing and strong hitting all showed up for a talented Gremlins squad that has been inconsistent at times this season.
Senior middle hitter Blaire Zenner put down 11 kills and the squad combined for 17 aces against just four service errors.
Houghton junior middle hitter Elisa Jurmu tips a ball Thursday against West Iron County as setter Natalie Datto looks on. Houghton won the WestPAC match 3-0. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"The key to our team is to pass the ball," Houghton coach John Christianson said. "When we pass the ball, then our setter can get the ball to Blaire (Zenner) and Elisa (Jurmu). And once we get it to them, then we can start running other things once we have established the middle.
"And tonight we passed well. Our digging was good and our hand passing was good."
Houghton took control of the first set from the fifth point on, when sophomore Emma Huhta went on a serving run of eight points (with three aces in the game).
Huhta led the team with seven aces for the match.
"When you get a run like that going, it is virtually the set every time. This is an incredible game of momentum," Christianson said.
"One of the things we work on is extending runs and stopping runs, because this is a game of momentum."
It was outside hitter Bronwyn Nettell's turn in the second set, as the senior rattled off 11 straight points, with five aces of her own.
Nettell's serve in particular caused the Wykons problems, as it dipped fast into no-man's land between the front and back rows.
"Bronwyn and Emma each opened a set up with their serving," Christianson said. "Bronwyn was just pounding the ball here. Just pounding it. She doesn't toss it real high, so she just hits it (low) and its really cruising. That was the biggest difference. We got the runs that we needed."
Combined with the dominant setting, the combination of Zenner and Jurmu was too much for WIC.
In addition to her game-leading 11 kills, Zenner chipped in three blocks, and Wykon hitters noticeably shied away from her as the match went on.
When Zenner subbed out, there was no reprieve for West Iron, as the junior Jurmu presents just as many problems. Setter Natalie Datto finished with 19 assists, with 17 going to the middle hitting pair.
"When we are passing well and Natalie (Datto) is getting to the ball, there isn't really (anyone who can stop her)," Christianson said of Zenner. "Today, there were times when the tempo is just clicking. We were getting the ball to Natalie relatively quickly and it was in such a way that Blaire was freed up to go. Most of the time she is right on tempo with what we want."
With the win, Houghton improved to 15-5-3 and 2-1 in conference play.
Christianson was particularly pleased that the team never let up with a lead, something they have occasionally done this season.
"At times our passing and serve went off and we let them get some runs, but other than that I was really happy," Christianson said.