HANCOCK - The comfortable fit of a familiar pair of hands at the wheel put Calumet's offense in gear Monday.
With setter Kayleen Anderson back on the court after two weeks out with an ankle injury, the Copper Kings cruised past Hancock 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-22) in a Class C district volleyball semifinal.
"I just think the team is excited to have Kayleen back in that setter role," Calumet coach Lisa Twardzik said. "There's a comfort level in a rotation when you've had 30 some-odd matches together."
Calumet’s Alisa Storm hits a kill attempt off the top of the net during the first set of Monday’s Class C district volleyball semifinal at Hancock. Setter Kayleen Anderson looks on, while Hancock’s Nicole Anderson tries to block. Calumet won 3-0. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Anderson, who has set for the Kings since the beginning of 2011, is adept at cueing the middle attack, which meant opportunities for two players at the middle blocker position, one familiar (Ellen Twardzik, who had seven kills and a pair of blocks) and one new (junior Alisa Storm, who had seven kills of her own subbing for the ill Loretta Anderson).
Calumet brought its usual weapons on the outside too, starting with senior Kristy Lasanen, who had an impressive night both offensively (12 kills, led all players) and defensively (10 digs).
"I thought Kristy Lasanen was all over the place," coach Twardzik said. "She was attacking from the front row, back row, in-system, out-of-system balls."
All that was tough to match for a Hancock side which coach Kristan Schuster said had one of its best offensive nights of the year, but its .060 hitting percentage just wasn't adequate.
"We were trying to attack the line and if you watched, when we did, we got a kill 90 percent of the time. We just didn't hit it there often enough," she said.
Calumet jumped out to 10-3 and 12-1 leads in the first two sets when the teams met on Dig Pink night in the same gym last Tuesday. Monday, it was 14-2 and 9-3.
"It felt like dja vu," Schuster lamented.
Hancock nibbled at the deficit in the first, but 21-12 was as close as it got.
"Calumet comes in with a reputation and sometimes you play tentative because of that," Schuster said.
In the second, Calumet was even stingier, and through two sets, Hancock had yet to string three points together.
The third was a little brighter for the host Bulldogs, who led 4-2 and prompted a Calumet timeout. The Kings recovered, but only to a 12-12 tie until a Lasanen kill, then a five-point run on Terra Erkkila's serve put Hancock's season in critical condition.
The Bulldogs staved off five match points, but at 24-22, Anderson dumped the second ball onto Hancock's side for the match-winner, a kill to go with her 30 assists and 12 digs.
"They play with passion as a unit out there," coach Twardzik said. "They understand that it's tournament season and there's a lot of senior leadership on the floor."
Both Anderson and Erkkila, the libero who also had 12 digs, are seniors.
Hancock was led offensively by five kills apiece from Amanda Manninen and Katelyn Anderson. Nicole Anderson had 21 assists and Jen Hannon posted team-leading totals of 11 digs and two aces. Only Katelyn Anderson and Lily Williams are lost to graduation as the Bulldogs focus on the future.
"At least all these young girls coming back can see where they need to be at," Schuster said.
For Calumet, the future is Thursday and a sixth meeting with Houghton (Calumet won four of the first five and both best-of-five WestPAC matches).
"I'm sure John (Christianson, Houghton coach) is as excited as I am," coach Twardzik said. "It's now an event that packs a gym. We've both been in this long enough to remember when it was just a handful of parents in the stands."