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Volleyball: Esky tops Gremlins for district title

Houghton’s Abbi Stone, right, hits the ball against Escanaba on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Escanaba, Mich. (Justin St. Ours/Escanaba Daily Press)

ESCANABA — The Escanaba Eskymos appeared to be ready for nearly everything here Thursday night as they retained their Division 2 District 33 championship with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-15) triumph over the Houghton Gremlins.

Esky travels to Sault Ste. Marie for Tuesday’s regional opener against the winner of tonight’s Cheboygan-Kingsley match. Houghton finished 10-5.

“Our girls came ready to play,” said Esky coach Adam Lambert. “We were a little afraid of their height. They had some tall girls, but we took advantage of what we saw in an online match. We had Marquette twice and Manistique on our schedule at the end of the regular season, which prepared us well. I’m going to ask our A.D. (athletic director Tony Perino) to schedule that way again.”

The third set was tied at nine before a sideout, and nine-point service run by Bailey Barron enabled the Eskymos to gain an insurmountable 19-9 lead.

“Bailey had a very good service run,” said Esky senior Anna Smith, who recorded 15 kills and 12 digs. “We definitely had some nerves at first, but Bailey really got us going. This was the last home match for the seniors. We knew we were going to be ready to play. Our defense was so good at covering tonight. It was awesome to win it at home. I think everyone did an amazing job. This was an exciting match for us.”

A six-point service run by junior Olivia Merriman helped the Gremlins gain a 12-4 lead in the opener.

Esky still trained 14-8 after a net violation, then rallied to tie the score at 14 on a two-hit violation by the Gremlins.

An Esky hitting error enabled the Gremlins to regain the lead. The Eskymos then tied the score on a hitting error and took their first lead on a kill by junior Allison Korpi.

Houghton was still within 20-18 after an Esky service error. The Eskymos, however, didn’t allow the Gremlins to get any closer.

“They controlled the first contact and had more swings than we did,” said Houghton coach John Christianson. “We were so out of our system all night. We didn’t pass the ball very well and had 17 hitting errors.”

Houghton was within 10-8 after a kill by junior Chloe Morley in the second set.

Esky then scored eight of the next 10 points, gaining a 16-10 cushion on a Gremlins’ net violation.

An Esky passing error gave Houghton a sideout, and a kill by Wickstrom kept the Gremlins within 17-12.

The Eskymos secured that set by outscoring the Gremlins 8-5.

Houghton tried to hit the ball away from Nicole Kamin, but the senior middle hitter still had 11 kills and a block. Mari Bink added eight kills, a block and 16 assists. Barron finished with six kills and 23 digs. Grace Charles tallied 11 assists, and Maysie Lancour collected 32 digs.

“Nicole was jumping out our her shoes against Kingsford Tuesday night, and Anna jumped out of her shoes this time,” said Lambert. “Bailey did some nice things in the back row and our serving was very good. We got everyone into the match and they all contributed.”

Wickstrom had four kills and a block. Merriman added three kills and 11 digs. Junior Micaela Geborkoff collected 13 digs and senior Paige DeForge had 11 for the Gremlins.

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