HANCOCK - With a 3-0 (25-10, 25-17, 25-21) victory over Hancock Tuesday, the Calumet volleyball team put one final flourish on a regular season that has seen the Copper Kings reach a higher plane than any team in the Copper Country.
Their attack - with Ellen Twardzik in the middle, Alexis Rowe outside and Kristy Lasanen coming from all directions - is more diverse. Their defense, with senior libero Terra Erkkila directing the back line, more consistent. And most importantly, their tempo proven too fast for WestPAC opponents to handle.
The Copper Kings finished the year with perfect 8-0 record in the WestPAC - snapping a two-year title streak of Houghton's - and 41-5 overall mark.
Michael Bleach/Daily Mining Gazette
Calumet setter Molly Loukus sets for sophomore middle hitter Ellen Twardzik in the second set Tuesday against Hancock as Meghan Westcott looks on. Twardzik led the squad with seven kills for the match.
"I knew coming into the season that we had more power and more height," Calumet head coach Lisa Twardzik said. "And it is all on the girls. They have worked hard this season and they deserve that record."
In a preview of Monday's opening round District Semifinal game, Calumet's quick tempo quickly ensured a first set victory.
Even with senior utility hitter Molly Loukus commanding the setting duties with normal setter Kayleen Anderson out with a leg injury, the offense proceeded without a hitch. The Copper Kings started the contest on a 10-3 run and before Hancock could catch their breath the first set had ended. Twardzik, Rowe and Lasanen led all hitters on the day with seven (Twardzik) and five kills apiece.
"They play a nice fast tempo and you don't see that from a lot of teams around here," Hancock coach Kristan Schuster said. "We got caught off guard quite a bit there (in the first set). But then in that second game and especially the third game, we started going OK.
"The first game for sure we had so many unforced errors it was like we couldn't hit the ball in the court."
Calumet once again took control of the second set with a blistering start, running the score to 12-1 behind some hot serving.
Hancock regained its footing from there, however, and with Twardzik starting to substitute freely, the Bulldogs were able to pull to a more respectable 25-17 margin.
The hosts continued their stronger play in the third set, tying the game at 21-21 before several kills from Twardzik helped end the match.
As it often is, the key for the Bulldogs in the third was a better serving attack, which helped slow the Copper Kings offense down.
"I thought we served real tentative with a lot of errors in the first two sets and then our serving really came around in the third set and we kept them out of their offense on that hideout," Schuster said. "We can do a good job of slowing them down that way."
Anderson was without the crutches she had been using a week ago and even suited up Tuesday, though did not see any game action.
Twardzik hopes she will be ready for Monday's playoff game against Hancock.
Still, if she isn't, Loukus has proven to be more than a suitable replacement.
"She is (doing a nice job)," Twardzik said. "She is working so hard out there and we are quite pleased with her effort. And the hitters are doing a nice job adjusting and Terra (Erkkila) and the back row are doing a great job trying to keep that ball in system."