BARAGA - Only one word describes the stranglehold the Lake Linden-Hubbell High volleyball team has on District 128 tournament play.
The Blue and Gold demonstrated that again Thursday night at the Baraga High Gym by easily turning aside Ontonagon in three sets in the championship match. It was their eighth district title in the past 10 years.
The winning Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes posed with the trophy after winning the Class D?district volleyball title over Ontonagon Thursday night in Baraga. (Paul Peterson photo)
"I thought the girls were focused tonight," LL-H coach Karen Keranen said after the Lakes grabbed a fourth straight district crown. "They stepped up in the first set and seldom let down."
Lakes' senior captain Ciara Larson said her team didn't want to have a letdown after a tough four-set semifinal win over Baraga two nights earlier.
"We always have tough matches with them (Vikings), so we wanted to make sure we had enough left for tonight," Larson commented. "It just feels good to win another district."
The winners jumped on the Gladiators in the first set by a 25-9 margin, leaving OAHS coach Megan Tucker to ponder what changes could be made.
"We seemed to have a mental letdown (in the first set) but we improved our play quite a bit in the second set," Tucker noted. "But it seemed like whenever we would try to make it close Larson would make a big kill ... she really had a nice game. A lot of them (Lakes) did."
Larson, who finished with 15 kills, showed a deft touch on several tip kills, slammed down others and also tossed in a lefthanded kill.
"Ciara is a dominant player for sure," Keranen said. "But Morgan Codere was also pounding the ball from the outside, she was really on fire tonight," Keranen noted. "When they're together in the same rotation, they're really effective."
The Gladiators displayed some spunk in the second set, leading by a 13-11 margin at one point. But a trio of kills from from Larson lifted LL-H to a 25-16 victory.
The third set saw Ontonagon stay close for a time, but the Lakes moved away for a 25-16 decision.
In addition to her 15 kills, Larson contributed eight digs. Erin Gast had a team-best 11 digs and two aces, Codere had 10 kills, Abby McConnon chipped in seven kills, Sarah Audette registered a game-high 32 assists and Carli Ongie had seven digs.
Tucker said her team will go back to the drawing board for next season.
"We're losing six good seniors, but we have a good group of young talent," she said. "I think we have a lot to look forward to next season."
The Lakes will now prepare for a regional semifinal game against Forest Park on Tuesday in Negaunee. The Lexi Gussert-led Trojans easily disposed of Bessemer last night.
"We know all about them and Lexi (Gussert)," Keranen noted. "They're ranked ninth in the state in Class D."
Ontonagon was led by Jen Stewart with four digs, four blocks and two aces. Heather Karttunen added five kills and Hope Pintar had four digs.