NORWAY - It was business as usual for the Calumet Copper Kings Tuesday night as they posted a 3-0 (25-11, 25-15, 25-13) volleyball triumph over the Ishpeming Hematites in a Class C regional opener.
The victory enables the Copper Kings to return to the Norway High School gym to face West Iron County in Thursday's championship match, which starts at 7 p.m. (EST).
West Iron advanced by outlasting Stephenson 3-2 (13-25, 25-19, 25-16, 11-25, 15-12) in Tuesday's opener.
Sophomore middle hitter Ellen Twardzik provided three straight kills in the first set, helping the Copper Kings gain a 5-2 lead.
"Ellen does a great job getting us started offensively," said Calumet coach Lisa Twardzik. "I think she's intimidating at the net."
Calumet then hiked its advantage to 11-4 before a serving error and two hitting miscues enabled the Hematites to climb within 11-7.
The Copper Kings, however, didn't allow them to get any closer.
"I thought our girls played real well in the first set," said Ishpeming coach Amy Rautiola. "I think Calumet's athleticism got to us. Some of the hits on which we'd normally get points, they dug up. Calumet has six good players on the court all the time. If they make a mistake, they don't let it get to them. They're so consistent. It's hard to match their intensity through an entire match."
After cruising through the second set, the Copper Kings met some resistance in the early part of the third.
Five consecutive kills, however, enabled Calumet to snap a 7-7 deadlock and surge ahead to stay.
The Copper Kings, often using Ellen Twardzik as a decoy, were able to keep the Hematites off balance by carrying out numerous fakes.
"We've been working hard on pushing that all season," said coach Twardzik. "It takes a long time to reach a point where you can execute that. I've learned early on, it's best to have strong hitters in all rotations. We have a big team. We feel all these players are great players. In each practice, we get to go up against a very good team."
Calumet senior Kristy Lasanen collected 13 kills. Ellen Twardzik added 10 kills and a block and sophomore Lexie Rowe had seven kills.
"Our sophomore class is very competitive as a whole," said coach Twardzik. "They've been working on their mental toughness since third grade."
Senior setter Kayleen Anderson distributed 34 assists.
Senior libero Terra Erkkila had 20 digs. Lasanen added 13 and Grace Hyrkas finished with eight.
Sophomore Jessica Spencer led the Hematites with five kills and two blocks. Senior Alesha O'Brien also had five kills. Natalee Dobson collected seven assists and Caitlin Korvela had nine digs for Ishpeming, which made its first regional appearance since 2005.
"Alesha did a real good job recognizing where to hit and where to tip," said Rautiola. "Overall, I think we had a nice season. We're so proud of this year's group of seniors. They just worked so hard to get us to this point."
In the earlier match, junior Amy Richardson hit the final two service points to help keep West Iron's season alive.
The fifth set was tied at 12. But the Wykons then got a sideout, setting the stage for Richardson's clutch serving.
West Iron led 10-2 in the finale. The Eagles, however, got a sideout and seven straight service points by senior Chelsea Turcotte to pull even at 10.
"Their middle hitter is good and they have some good servers," coach Twardzik said of the Wykons. "We'll certainly be ready for them."