Houghton claims Copper Spike for 4th consecutive year with sweep over Hancock

The Houghton Gremlins celebrate with the Copper Spike after sweeping Hancock (25-14, 25-14, 25-13), Thursday, in Hancock. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — Once the nerves settled down from the hoopla that surrounds the Copper Spike rivalry, there was little doubt about who would be raising the annual trophy.

The Houghton Gremlins recovered from 4-1 and 3-0 deficits in the first two sets to win their fourth consecutive Copper Spike, sweeping the Hancock Bulldogs (25-14, 25-14, 25-13) Thursday in a West-PAC matchup in Hancock.

“We were a little nervous in the beginning,” Houghton head coach John Christianson said. “You could see it out there. Then we relaxed and kind of played the game we’re supposed to.”

Houghton’s anxiety went away following the strong serve game of seniors Kendra Monette and Harlee Froberg. Trailing 4-2, Froberg served for three points, including an ace, to put the Gremlins ahead 5-4.

Following a Hancock miscue that allowed the Gremlins to take serve, Monette went on a nine-point service run to put the Gremlins up 15-7 while taking control of the match.

“Harlee’s serve doesn’t look that tough, but if you’re behind it it’s moving,” Christianson said. “It’s side to side and up and down. It makes a lot of its movement at the end, and a lot of passers don’t watch it carefully enough.

“Kendra just hits the ball hard. In that first run that she had, I think there were three times where they ended up playing out serves because they couldn’t get out of the way. The ball comes at you that hard.

“I was really pleased with how those two got us going in the set.”

Both student sections dressed up in the festive attire that the Copper Bowl week is known for. There were cross country uniforms, hockey helmets and a construction helmet that was painted in Houghton colors. The Houghton students even went as far as bringing a pet cage with a stuffed dog trapped inside.

But as the match went on, only those in orange and black had much to cheer about, and the match lacked any late-set drama thanks to Houghton’s dominance.

Similar to the opener, Houghton broke a 9-9 tie in the second set by outscoring Hancock 16-5 the rest of the way. The third set was more of the same, with Houghton taking an 11-10 lead before finishing on a 14-3 run.

“We got a rhythm and got some passing,” Christianson said. “We were able to get some swings when they moved back. I thought our defense was pretty good. We got some good digs when they got some swings. Overall, I was pleased.”

Monette led Houghton with five kills, eight digs and three aces, while senior Jada Markham had six kills. Senior Kiley Farrey chipped in with four kills, and Froberg finished with three aces and three kills. Defensively, Madi Dillinger added eight digs, and junior Deja Brule recorded two block kills.

The inconsistent showing has been a theme for Hancock all season. But so far, it’s been the miscues that have outweighed the positives — and Thursday was more of the same.

“We started strong every match, but then we would just fall apart towards the end and get stuck in a rotation,” Hancock head coach Sarah Grieger said. “Houghton took advantage of that. But tonight I feel we played better against them than we’ve had all season.

“It’s tough to know that we can play to that level but just can’t seem to keep it going. But I feel like every game this season we’ve improved from the last one.”

Hancock juniors Emma Almquist and junior Karena Holmstrom led the way with five kills. Senior Clariane Alkuino had eight digs.

The victory gives Houghton its seventh Copper Spike victory in the eight years since the trophy was introduced to the rivalry. Winning the Copper Spike is a preseason goal each year for Houghton, and that was reinforced after the Gremlins lost a five-set thriller in heartbreaking fashion (15-13) to the Calumet Copper Kings on Tuesday.

“We used that preseason goal as our driving emphasis after the tough loss we had on Tuesday night,” Christianson said. “We couldn’t let that take us down. We had to get ready to go.”

Next, Houghton closes the regular season with a home matchup against West Iron County on Tuesday; Hancock goes to Calumet on the same day.

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