MARQUETTE - One little loss provided all the fodder that the Calumet High School volleyball team needs for an entire season.
The Copper Kings defeated Houghton for the third time this season in the championship match of the Marquette Invitational held at Marquette Senior High School on Saturday. Calumet prevailed, 15-4, 15-11.
The loss doesn't look so little to the Copper Kings, even though it occurred nearly a year ago.
"Technically, we're the underdog when we play Houghton," Calumet coach Lisa Twardzik said. "They're the (Class C) district champions for two years in a row."
That includes last season, when the Kings lost in a five-set heartbreaker that was part of the Gremlins' run to the state quarterfinals.
"We just have to think about that match, that's all we need to give us incentive," said Calumet senior libero Terra Erkkila, who served a string of points in the semifinals that brought her team out of a big deficit to victory against Kingsford.
"Our success against Houghton is because we come together and start talking, start communicating.
"We started out in the (championship match) real strong. That's important, especially when you're only playing to 15 (points). It makes every game feel like the fifth game of a regular match."
Erkkila is the most diminutive player on the Calumet team, but that's only in a physical sense for her.
"I tell (middle hitter) Ellen Twardzik I'm living my hitting game through her," Erkkila said about one of the Copper Kings' best bets for making kills.
In the abbreviated title match, Twardzik finished with four kills, the same as Kristy Lasanen and one less than another outside hitter, Lexie Rowe.
In the championship, Calumet turned a competitive first game into a rout by scoring seven of the final eight points, several on unforced errors.
"I thought we played fairly well all day, but we were timid in the first set (of the championship)," 23rd-year HHS coach John Christianson said. "In the second set, we just needed to pay more attention to details.
"To beat a team as good as Calumet, you have to have all things good all the time."
Both teams breezed through pool play, earning first-round byes to the quarterfinals, and swept through two rounds of the brackets before the finals in compiling 10-0 records before clashing.
Calumet dispatched Negaunee, Bessemer and Munising in its pool with only one game closer than 15-5, then held off Gwinn in the quarterfinals, 15-13, 15-6, and barely got by Kingsford in the semis, 16-14, 17-15.
Kingsford had leads of 11-6 in each game before the Copper Kings came back.
Houghton turned back Westwood, Superior Central and Gladstone in its pool with only a 16-14 victory over the first team testing the Gremlins.
HHS made sure the rematch with Westwood wasn't close, winning 15-5, 15-8 in the quarterfinals, and earned a 15-8, 15-10 victory over Ishpeming in the semis.