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Volleyball: Gremlins win Copper Spike with sweep over rival Bulldogs

The Houghton High School volleyball team poses with the Copper Spike trophy after defeating Hancock on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Houghton, Mich. (Eddie O’Neill/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — With black and orange balloons, streamers and a myriad of colorful students filling the stands of the Houghton High School gymnasium, it looked like a school-wide Halloween party was in the works.

The real work took place on the volleyball court and the party came after the Houghton Gremlins downed the Hancock Bulldogs in three to raise the Copper Spike trophy, a long-standing volleyball rivalry between Houghton and Hancock each fall. Houghton won it this year with scores of 25-14, 25-13 and 25-16.

It’s the Gremlins’ 10th Copper Spike win in 11 years.

“That was one of our best games,” said Gremlins head coach John Christianson. “We did the things we knew we needed to do. That included controlling the first contact, putting our serves where we wanted and controlling the ball when they were serving.”

The Gremlins wasted no time putting those strategies into practice, Abbi Stone opened the first set with a run of five. The Bulldogs came back to tie it it at five but that was as close as they got. The score moved to 11-8 and then 15-9 after to a run of four by Micaela Geborkoff. A few points later Olivia Merriman put together a run of six which included two aces to round out the first set. She led the team with four total aces.

“I thought we passed the ball fairly well and that gave out setter an opportunity to get the ball up to Merriman and Stella Wickstorm,” said Christianson.

The only real bright spot for the Bulldogs came at the start of the second set when the team took a 2-1 lead. However, that was short lived as Gremlins pushed that to a 11-4 lead. The momentum was certainly with the Gremlins throughout the night and it was led by Maryellen Trewhella. The senior had seven kills and three aces.

“She is the leader of the team,” Christianson said. “She is good at defense, serving and just a strong all-around player for us.”

The third set looked a lot like the first two. The Gremlins jumped out to a 12-5 lead thanks in part to their defense. Hancock could get nothing by them. With arms extended, Wickstrom and Stone were a force to be reckoned with at the net and Paige DeForge held the back line.

“Paige DeForge did a great job tonight,” Christianson said. “It was one of her better games that she has had played all year. She was getting up to the ball and getting it to the setter. I was pleased with the way we handled the ball.”

On the other side of the net, Bulldog head coach Heather L’Esperance was not pleased. Thursday’s night’s play was quite different performance that they put on against Lake Linden-Hubbell on Tuesday. L’Esperance described that one as one of the Bulldogs best. Last nights game was characterized by poor communication, missed hits and lack of fire in their play. In many ways, the Bulldogs beat themselves and failed to spark any momentum.

“We battled, but it comes down to a mental game,” she said. “All we can do is bounce back and get ready for playoffs.”

With the win the Gremlins move to 8-3 and the loss puts the Bulldogs at 5-3.

The Gremlins will play for the WestPAC title on Saturday at home.

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