Houghton repeats as champions at the Rock Invite in Gladstone

Avery Bundgaard/Daily Press Houghton celebrates after winning the Rock Invite Saturday in Gladstone.

GLADSTONE — The Houghton volleyball team is on top of the rock again.

The Gremlins capped off their second straight ‘The Rock’ invitational title by beating Escanaba in the semifinals 2-1 before downing Gladstone in the championship game 2-0.

“This is one our favorite tournaments and we’ve had a lot of success here through the years,” said Houghton coach John Christianson. “We were the defending champs and we took it seriously that we wanted to defend our championship. We had a little bit of a lull in the middle of the day but they recovered really well. It’s big for us and one of the goals for us at the beginning of the year was that the girls wanted to keep ‘The Rock’.”

For the entire tournament, Kendra Monette led the Gremlins (11-5-4) with 44 kills, eight aces and 28 digs while being named to the all-tournament team. Harley Froberg added 13 kills and six aces; Jada Markham tallied five kills, seven block kills and eight aces; Kiley Farrey added 12 kills; Mackenzie Klein dished out 54 assists; and Madi Dillinger recorded 59 digs.

Gladstone, which finished first in the Purple Pool at 8-0, defeated Gwinn in the semifinals 2-1 before moving on against Houghton in the championship game.

“Today overall we did really great,” said Gladstone coach Mariah Yonker.

“We finished at the top of our pool going undefeated. When’s the last time Gladstone’s made it this far in the tournament? So the momentum was up, but we just couldn’t finish. I’m proud of the way we played and Houghton’s a heck of a team. But we’ll see them again this year I’m sure and the girls plan on evening it out a little bit.”

The Gremlins jumped out to an early lead going up 13-8. The Braves were able to score the next four points to come within 13-12 before eventually taking a 16-15 lead.

That’s when Houghton took over scoring 10 of the last 13 points to take the first set 25-19.

“Volleyball is a game of runs,” said Christianson. “It’s about making runs and breaking runs. We were able to put runs together in a couple different places and that has been our focal point which is no bunch errors but bunch points.”

The second set started off point for point as both teams were tied at 11. The Gremlins scored the next four points building a little bit of a cushion.

The Braves climbed back within two points at 17-15 before Houghton took over to score the next six points to go up 23-15 and was two points away from putting the match away but the Braves didn’t make it easy.

Gladstone nearly pulled out the comeback as it scored the next seven points to come within 23-22.

“I think my girls have the best attitudes that I’ve seen on a team in my entire life,” said Yonker. “As soon as something good happens that whole entire team is back up.”

That momentum was stopped when Houghton scored the next two points to stop Gladstone’s momentum and take the championship.

“We were a little shook,” said Christianson. “I took a chance at 23-22 we ran a certain receive that I haven’t run with this team before but have run with other groups. I called it out to two of my seniors and I said this what we’re going to run. That’s when we broke the run and were able to get to 24. I thought these are seniors and they’ve been here before. They should be able to handle it even though we haven’t run it much.”

In pool play Kingsford came in second behind Gladstone in the purple pool with a record of 6-2 while Ishpeming’s record of 3-4 was good enough for third place.

In the white pool Esky finished first with a 5-1 record to finish first and was followed by Gwinn with a record of 5-1 while Houghton finished pool play in third place with a 5-3 record.

The Hancock Bulldgs dropped all the sets except for winning one against Westwood. Leading Hancock, Clariane Alkuino had 52 digs for the tourney, while Karena Holmstrom had nine kills and 13 digs; Ally Laux had 36 digs; Delaney Heinonen added 21 digs; Jillian Parker tallied six aces; and Maddie Johnson finished with 21 assists.

Houghton hosts Lake Linden-Hubbell Tuesday for its next contest, while Hancock welcomes Calumet on the same day.

The summary:

Houghton 25 25

Gladstone 19 22

Houghton –  Farrey (1 kill, 1 dig, 1 ace), Richardson (1 assist), J. Markham (2 digs, 1 ace), Klein (5 assists, 2 kills, 2 digs, 1 ace), D. Markham (2 digs), Monette (11 digs, 4 kills, 1 assist, 1 ace), Dillinger (3 aces, 1 dig), Froberg (7 digs).

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