Hancock cruises past LL-H

HANCOCK – After a couple of seasons where they have been close, but not quite where head coach Sarah Greiger wanted them, the Hancock Bulldogs appear to have finally arrived. Thursday night’s match with the visiting Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes was the tale of two teams heading in opposite directions.

The Bulldogs are benefitting from the momentum they started building when they beat Calumet at the Kingsford Tournament. With wins against Chassell and now over the Lakes in straight sets, 25-16, 25-6 and 25-15, Hancock appears to be firing on nearly all cylinders.

“I think the team is feeling really strong right now,” said Greiger. “It’s been a great start to the season.”

A lot of the credit for the Bulldogs’ strong start belongs to senior middle hitter Kaisa Holmstrom, who continues to impress, racking up 13 kills on the night, including five in the final set.

While Holmstrom’s impressive play opens up space for other hitters such as senior outside hitter Clariane Alkuino, Three more Hancock hitters, sophomore Delaney Heinonen and seniors Jasmine Sever and Carlin Kalinec are improving by leaps and bounds, helping the Bulldogs create a very strong service game.

Heinonen was called up from the junior varsity squad after Mackenzie Wuori suffered an injury. For her first couple of games at the varsity level, Heinonen appears poised beyond her experience. At one point in the second set, she racked up two aces in three serves.

“Delaney had a great run,” said Greiger. “She has been doing great. I think she should be really pleased of herself and her all her serves.”

Kalinec, playing on the left side, earned five kills and was the one at the service line for the final two points of the match.

For head coach Maureen Schick, the Lakes’ next practice will be back to the drawing board as she continues to wait for one of her talented younger players to step up and support seniors Alexa Destrampe and Erin Seppala.

“We seem to have those lulls,” said Schick. “I need some of the other, younger hitters to step up and make more of a mark. We cannot rely on Alexa all the time and hope Erin gets hot. My other hitters have to figure out how to get the job done.”

Destrampe had a team-high six kills and Seppala added a pair, but the Lakes only managed 11 total kills on the night. Add to that the fact the Lakes committed 19 hitting errors and it becomes clear that this was not their night, offensively.

The stats do not get any better when looking at serves. The Lakes had five aces on the night, but committed six errors.

One bright spot for the Lakes continues to be the play of freshman Joslynn Perala. Perala picked up two kills and two aces while also notching five digs.

The Lakes started the night strong with four of the first five points before Holmstrom and her teammates bounced back with eight of the next nine points to take a 9-5 lead. The Lakes used an ace from senior Julia Koepel to pull within two, 9-7. Destrampe came up with a block a couple of plays later to again pull the Lakes within two, 11-9, but that was as close as they would get.

Holmstrom racked up several straight serves. During her run, Kalinec picked up a kill when her attack was blocked out of bounds, giving Hancock an 18-12 lead.

From there, the Bulldogs got a pair of kills from Heinonen to put them within four points of the win, 21-13. Holmstrom notched the final kill, her fourth of the set, to seal the set.

In the second set, the Bulldogs opened with a 5-1 lead that quickly became 9-2 after senior setter Bella Nutini, who had 15 assists on the night, posted an ace. Alkuino added a kill of her own, forcing the Lakes to take a timeout.

Things did not get much better for the visitors as Nutini served up an ace. Sever added one of her own, and suddenly the Lakes trailed 14-3. Heinonen picked up two more aces as part of another long stretch of serves, and the Bulldogs lead 20-5 before Holmstrom notched two kills over the final six points to seal the win.

In the final set, the Lakes finally started moving their feet and reacting to where Hancock was serving the ball. The results of that effort was that Lake Linden was able to keep pace with the hosts. Seppala and Destrampe picked up kills as the Lakes evened the set at 10-10.

Holmstrom and Kalinec notched back-to-back kills as the Bulldogs racked up the next six points, forcing Schick to call a timeout.

After junior Lily Kumpala picked up a kill to bring the Lakes back within two, 16-14, Bulldogs senior Allyson Laux dropped a kill just over the net to bring Hancock’s lead back up to four, 18-14. Two aces from Heinonen and one more from Kalinec helped the Bulldogs finish up strong.

Up next, Hancock heads to L’Anse on Tuesday, while LL-H hosts Houghton on the same day.