Gremlins cruise to victory over Patriots in home opener
HOUGHTON — After a number of away games in tournaments to start the season, the Houghton Gremlins volleyball team finally had a chance to show their home crowd what they are capable of as they beat the visiting Westwood Patriots, 25-14, 25-15, 25-12.
Gremlins coach John Christianson has been working hard with his girls on their focus, and that shone through Thursday.
“One of our themes this year has been focus, and I thought we came out really focused at the beginning of that first set,” he said, “part of that was McKenna Foster going back and serving all of those points.
“I thought we were really focused (early on) and then we lost our focus and we just got sloppy.”
Despite some mistakes, however, the only coach Houghton has ever had felt that his squad regained its composure.
“I thought we maintained our focus pretty well (once we got it back),” said Christianson. “I was pretty happy with that part.”
Daityn Markham had an 11-serve run in the second set that helped lead Houghton to match victory, moving them to 2-0 in WestPAC play.
Her coach felt that Markham’s serve difficult for the Patriots to pick up throughout the night.
“She made a great run,” Christianson said. “She was putting a little pressure on them. They were struggling with some of the serves that she had.”
The Gremlins’ height in the front row, anchored by Deja Brule, is going to make life difficult for many teams they will see through the season, as long as everyone stays healthy and Thursday night was no exception as Brule and her teammates held Westwood back throughout the night.
“We’ve got some size and we’ve got some skill,” said Christianson. “I’ve got two kids that are 6-feet tall or 5-foot-9. In spite of all of that, it all comes down to how well we pass the first ball.”
Milton Braga, head coach of the Patriots was happy with how his team stayed competitive despite coming up short.
“We’re a very young team (that) played against a very strong (and) well-coached team,” he said. “For the first time this season, we actually planned the game. We were just locked up, plus these (girls) are really good.
“I’m really proud of the job that the girls did today.”
Braga would like to see his team progress on serve receive moving forward in practice and in games. Westwood did show some signs of life late in the second set after taking advantage of some short serves and missed opportunities by the Gremlins. However, it just was not enough.
“They are getting there,” said Braga. “When they get to the ball, they hustle and make it a more exciting game for people to watch. We just need to work on the serving and receiving.”
The Gremlins head to Gladstone to participate in the “The Rock” this weekend. The team heads in as the defending champions, and while that means they have a target on their backs, they would not have it any other way.