BARAGA - Lake Linden-Hubbell crushed Baraga in the first set of Tuesday night's Mountain Lakes Conference volleyball match, but the Vikings' resilience and Lakes' overconfidence led to a closely contested four-set rematch of last year's district championship.
Despite its inconsistent play, LL-H had enough firepower to beat Baraga for the second time this year, 3-1 (25-13, 25-20, 20-25, 25-18). They also beat the Vikings 3-1 (25-16, 25-15, 20-25, 25-9) on Aug. 29, which are the only two conference losses for Baraga this year.
"They looked good coming out - no mistakes hardly at all. We served well, we passed well, we put the ball where we wanted it, and then that typical letdown in the second game," Lakes coach Karen Keranen said. "When you come in a little overconfident - even though we warned them about it - we came out a little flat."
Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Mandy Perreault tips the ball over a double block attempt by Baraga’s MacKenzie Keefer (back) and Melissa Putala in Thursday’s 3-1 Lakes win in Baraga. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
The visitors jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead paced by Ciara Larson's serve game, and Baraga put up little resistance as the Lakes quickly made it 13-4.
The Vikings, in fact, did not score a point from their own side of the net until they made it 18-8 with a MacKenzie Keefer service ace. LL-H errors and violations accounted for 10 of Baraga's 13 first-set points.
"I just said, 'Look you guys, if you just want to call it a night now and let them walk all over you, let's just forfeit,'" Baraga coach Peggy Reinsch said. "I said you are in the fight of your life and you are going to have to fight with every fiber of your being to stay in this game.
"I couldn't be prouder of them for coming back and not just laying down and letting them walk all over them."
In the second set Baraga opened up a quick 6-0 lead, sparked by two of Rebecca Larson's team-high four aces. But, little by little, LL-H chipped away, making it 8-4, then 11-8, then 15-13, leading to the biggest run of the match.
Annelise Polkinghorn tallied four aces during a 10-point run that suddenly shifted the set in the Lakes' favor.
Baraga kept fighting, but LL-H clinched set two with a powerful cross-court kill by Brittni Kisul.
Kisul, though, struggled with errors all night long, and that, combined with some Baraga adjustments were finally enough to give the hosts a set victory in the third frame.
The Vikings opened up a 7-0 lead, and even though Lake Linden-Hubbell trimmed the lead to four points seven different times, and 23-20, the early hole was too big to dig out of.
Unfortunately for the hosts, winning one battle was not enough to win the war, as it couldn't fully dig itself out of the two-sets-to-none hole.
The fourth set was close throughout, but, after overcoming a 2-0 set start, LL-H gradually pulled away thanks to five of Mandy Perreault's kills. Larson's serves helped earn a 3-2 lead, and the Lakes built the advantage to 5-3, 7-4 and 15-10. Baraga got as close as 18-15 before the Lakes went on a six-point run. The hosts fended off match point three times before Abby McConnon dealt the final blow in the 25-18 fourth-set win.
Rebecca Larson, in addition to her four aces and 16-for-16 service percentage, tied with Melissa Putala with a team-high six kills, while also adding 19 digs. Brittany Nieskes had 22 digs for Baraga.
Both teams are just starting a challenging schedule stretch, with the Lakes making a trip to Houghton Thursday and a triangular with Calumet and Chassell next Tuesday. Baraga (12-8-3, 3-2 MLC) is in a triangular with Houghton and L'Anse next Tuesday.