Calumet swept by Bronson for 2nd straight year in state semifinals

Calumet junior Celia Kiilunen (13) hits a ball past Bronson defenders Alanna Mayer (5) and Jolie Smoker during a Class C volleyball semifinal at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek on Friday. (James Andersen for the Gazette)

BATTLE CREEK — Bronson got the better of the Calumet volleyball team again.

Keona Salesman had 16 kills and Ashton Wronikowski added 11 for the top-ranked Vikings who defeated the Copper Kings in three sets during a Class C semifinal at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek on Friday.

Bronson won 25-16, 25-12 and 25-13 and will advance to Saturday’s Class C championship game against Laingsburg in an attempt to win a third straight state championship.

After falling to the Vikings in last year’s semifinal in three sets, the Copper Kings didn’t fare any better the second time around. Despite not being sharp by their own admission, the Vikings still did plenty to overwhelm the eighth-ranked Copper Kings.

Bronson had 46 kills for the match and a 34 percent attack percentage. Calumet had just 21 kills and a .094 attack percentage.

“They battled hard. It’s tough when you get down here,” Calumet coach Matt Laho said. “We’re coming a long way to be here and it’s just a completely different atmosphere than what they’re used to playing in.”

Senior Lea Bjorn led the Copper Kings with 11 kills and 13 digs. Brea Johnson had four kills and eight digs; Celia Kiilunen had four kills and Amber Johnson had 10 digs.

The Copper Kings kept things close early in the second set, rallying from an early hole to make it 8-7. But as it did many times during the match, Bronson simply turned it up on offense. Leading 10-8, the Vikings scored the next four points with Wronikowski recording two kills. Calumet later had a small rally to make the score 17-11, but Bronson caught fire again, scoring eight of the next nine points to win the set.

“Credit to them,” Laho said. “They’re lucky, they have the advantage of being downstate and all the good volleyball that they have around them.”

With two sets in the bag, the Vikings turned things up another notch in the third set, opening on an 8-3 run that saw four kills from Salesman. After Calumet scoring on an attacking error, the Vikings rattled off another four points for a 12-4 lead.

Calumet had its last rally of the day later in the set, rallying to make it 14-10 after strong play from Bjorn and Killunen, but the Copper Kings couldn’t sustain their momentum and fell behind again. Bronson scored the next seven points and four of the last seven to win the match.

Bronson established control early in the match, starting the first set on an 8-2 run with Salesman, Wronikowski and Adyson Lasky dominating up front. Despite a dominating match — the Vikings had 107 total attacks and made just nine errors — head coach Jean LaClair said Bronson will need to play much better on Saturday.

“I thought we played good enough to win today. I thought we struggled to pick up some tips early on in the game and we kind of got that figured out and started to get some swings on the ball,” LaClair said. “We certainly are going to have to come out and play a little bit more our style of ball tomorrow than I think we did today.”

With Salesman leading the way, Bronson pushed its lead to 13-5 before Bjorn and Killunen helped the Copper Kings close the gap to 17-11 later on. Ultimately, Calumet couldn’t pull any closer and Bronson went on to win the set.

Despite the loss, Laho praised his team’s effort after the match. After last year’s loss, Laho, who took over as head coach this season, made a promise that Calumet would come back to Battle Creek.

The Copper Kings did just that, dropping just one postseason set on the way to making a return trip to Kellogg Arena.

“I’m very proud of the girls and the work they put in to get back down here. I’m excited that the program’s improving,” Laho said. “We’re just going to keep getting better and hopefully we can come back down again next year.”

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