ST. IGNACE - For the second year in a row, the Beal City High School volleyball program will be packing its bags for Battle Creek.
After making the two and a half hour trek north across the Mackinac Bridge to St. Ignace, the No. 3-ranked Aggies came home with a hard-fought, four-set win (22-25, 25-11, 25-18, 25-17) over Calumet Tuesday evening in a Class C quarterfinal.
"The first set, we really weren't playing good defense, so we picked it up in the next three sets. We were actually passing the balls to the setter and they were able to run her up, so that was definitely a game changer," said Beal City head coach Kelly David. "Our game plan was to run with our middles tonight. Calumet was a very good team though. They were great all around and they played tough."
The Aggies will now prepare to face Auburn Hills Oakland Christian in the second of two semifinals Friday in Battle Creek. The Lancers edged Ottawa Lake Whiteford in five sets Tuesday to reach Kellogg Arena. The winner of the Beal City-Auburn Hills Oakland Christian matchup will face the winner of the Mendon-Grand Rapids Covenant semifinal Saturday afternoon for the state championship.
First serve in Friday's semifinal is tentatively slated for 3:45 p.m.
Beal City (55-3-1) got out to a quick start in the first set Tuesday, taking a 15-10 lead at the midway point. Reminiscent of the second set in Beal City's regional final match against Traverse City St. Francis last week, the Copper Kings clawed back from the late deficit to win the set with a 15-7 run.
Despite being in the hole early, Beal City dominated the final three sets, exposing the Calumet backcourt.
Addie Schumacher once again led the Beal City attack with 19 kills to go along with 10 blocks and eight digs, while Jordan Schneider impressed with 17 kills and two blocks. Melanie Schafer also collected eight kills, two aces, two blocks and 19 digs, while Nicole Gross tallied four kills, three blocks and a dig.
Anna Reihl also registered 15 digs, while Jenna Theisen contributed 37 assists, two aces and six digs.
"It's a really exciting feeling to go back to Battle Creek. I think that every team has the goal to go to Battle Creek, and we're there," David added. "It was a lot of fun last year when we were down in Battle Creek, so we've just got to keep working harder and hopefully we'll win a state championship."
Tuesday's loss closes out another stellar season for Calumet, as the Copper Kings have ended three of their last five seasons in the quarterfinal round.
"Beal City was a great opponent, and I'm very proud of how my girls played," said Calumet head coach Lisa Twardzik. "I think that we certainly gave them a challenge and that we surprised them in that first set. I wish it could have ended differently though because it's always tough to end a season like this."
Lexie Rowe paced Calumet with 10 kills and 13 digs, while Carissa Pavolich and Loretta Anderson each tallied five kills apiece. Defensively, Megan Yeo led the way with 24 digs, while Terilynne Budreau established the attack with 23 assists.
Calumet has emerged in recent years as the class of Upper Peninsula volleyball, something Twardzik attributes to the commitment and drive her players exude.
"We keep fighting and fighting, but we need to implement the club programs like schools in the Lower Peninsula have to benefit from. I have girls that are passionate about volleyball and who want to play," Twardzik said. "It was a great season for us though. Going 39-10 is not an easy thing to do. Yes, we're disappointed to have it end, but I couldn't be prouder of my girls. The girls were certainly committed to the program and worked their tails off for me Our seniors really elevated our program, so it will be a sad thing to see them graduate this year. I thank our community for their support. We had people not just in Calumet supporting us but people all over the Copper Country supporting Calumet volleyball."