BARAGA - Blowing the Mountain Lakes Conference standings all to heck in a hand-pass and ruining the Transitive Property along with it, the Baraga volleyball team defeated Chassell 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-17) Thursday night, creating a three-way tie for the MLC title along with Lake Linden-Hubbell.
Lake Linden beat Baraga twice, Baraga swept Chassell and Chassell knocked off Lake Linden in both of their matchups. At the end of that twisted road, all three teams can rightly claim a stake of the season championship.
"Man was that fun for us," Baraga coach Peggy Reinsch said. "The girls have been working all year towards this and just came out so confident and loose."
Baraga’s Gabby Mayo hits the ball over the net during Thursday’s match against Chassell in Baraga as teammate Kelly Bedner (23)?looks on. With the win, Baraga forced a three-way tie atop the Mountain Lakes Conference with Chassell and Lake Linden-Hubbell. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
Both teams were well aware of the stakes Thursday night.
With a win, Chassell could claim sole possession of the Mountain Lakes Conference crown. And thank to consecutive wins over Ontonagon and Ewen-Trout Creek, the Vikings put themselves in the position to play spoiler and create a trio of victors.
"The girls knew if we took care of business the last two weeks with Ontonagon and Ewen, we would put ourselves in a position to compete," Reinsch said. "And when they got that opportunity, they sure weren't going to waste it."
Baraga jumped on Chassell early in all three sets Thursday, creating separation in the first dozen points and forcing the Panthers into catch-up mode.
Thanks to some superlative serve-receive to keep Chassell on the back-foot, the Vikings successfully protected their lead each time as well, a bugaboo early in the season for the Vikings.
"We played very loose and stayed aggressive all the way through," Reinsch said. "We passed for serve-receive, we passed great. They were not able to get the runs on our serve receive like they have in the past. We have had some games this season where we could not pass to save our live, but today we kept their serving runs short."
Baraga's top outside hitter, senior Melissa Putala, led all players with 14 kills, but it was the varied attack that impressed Reinsch the most.
Junior middle Gabby Mayo chipped in with five kills and setter Kelly Bedner put down a couple on quick-attacks herself.
"We used the middle better and Kelly mixed up the game beautifully," Reinsch said. "I think we kept Chassell a little off balance with the placement of our shots."
There is still one season goal left unfulfilled for Baraga, but the Vikings should get a shot in the postseason to check it off a list that keeps getting shorter.
Baraga hosts LL-H Tuesday night in the second of two Class D district semifinals.
"Now we have to keep this level of play going in the playoffs," Reinsch said. "Hopefully the girls see that if we play like this, we can compete with Lake Linden too."