Houghton wins The Rock volleyball tournament

The Houghton volleyball team poses with The Rock trophy after defeating Kingsford in the championship match Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Gladstone, Mich. (Justin St. Ours/Escanaba Daily Press)

GLADSTONE — The same match up as a year ago went the opposite way Saturday at the Rock volleyball tournament in Gladstone.

In the championship match, Houghton and Kingsford faced off, and claiming revenge for last year’s loss, Houghton toppled Kingsford 2-0 (25-18, 25-23) to bring the Rock home.

“We came last year and lost to Kingsford in the finals, so this was kind of a redemption round for us,” Gremlins coach Blaire Zenner said. “So, I was super excited we were able to play them again and take care of business here today.

“I think the entire match against Kingsford was the highlight for everybody. It was a team effort. We knew that it was going to be the toughest of the day with the tempo Kingsford plays, and we were able to control most of the game. We just tried our best to make the smart plays.”

With matches in the tournament being best of three for expediency, Kingsford — already down a set — fought back to take its second lead (18-17) of the match on an ace from Jenna Viau.

“We were serving a little more aggressive (in the second set),” Flivvers coach Jaclynn Kreider said. “We got some points out of that, which helped. We were also attacking the ball. I feel like where we struggled in both of those sets in the championship match was where we weren’t attacking. We were sort of second guessing ourselves, and we had some unforced errors. You can’t give a team like Houghton points — you have to make them work for it. We got a little bit anxious.”

However, the Flivvers immediately gave up the lead with a serve into the net just after, but an error on the Gremlins’ side, a net violation, returned the opportunity to Kingsford to force a third set. Then, a Houghton return into the net put the Flivvers up 20-18.

The Gremlins made their own rally, turning a Flivvers out of bounds return into a 23-20 advantage on the back of a four-point run from Stella Wickstrom.

“(Maintaining composure with changing leads) was one of areas where we struggled with last year, and we weren’t able to convert that into a win,” Zenner said. “So, today, to see that same situation, and for us to push through and end up on top was tremendous.

“Stella Wickstrom made the all-tournament team and was a big part of our front row. Jiani Tang also played a huge part on our back row as well as Bryn Lamppa and Clea Ollanketo.”

A timeout recentered the Flivvers, and a spike from Maddy Kreider tied the second set at 23.

Houghton then employed a timeout of its own, leading to a spike from Danica Ryynanen to regain possession, and an ace from Laney Johnson sealed the match and the title.

The Gremlins had smoother sailing in the first set, Clea Ollanketo helming a six-point run early to put some distance between themselves and the Flivvers.

Kingsford cut its deficit in the middle to just one (17-16) thanks to a kill from Kailey Sundquist and a short run — and an ace — from Maddy Kreider.

“Every set that we played in it, it was a different girl that stepped up,” coach Kreider said. :We had different servers that took charge of the game at different times. We really worked a new set in with one of our middles, and I think she did a great job today. That was Kailey Sundquist. She was playing a little injured today as well, so I feel that if there’s anyone we put to the test today, it was her.”

The Gremlins pulled away shortly after on kills from Wickstrom and Bryn Lamppa.

To reach the championship match, Kingsford toppled Menominee and Houghton knocked out Carney-Nadeau (25-10, 25-19).

The Gremlins ended the first set against the Wolves with an eight-point run, and two aces, from Johnson, and a five-point run, including three aces, from Tang gave Houghton an early advantage.

The Wolves cut their deficit to 10-8 on an ace from Samantha Kedsch, but it was as close as they would come to a lead.

“We were just aiming to play the best ball we could at Carney,” Wolves coach Steve Kedsch said. “We just wanted to rebound (From a down match Thursday). I’m pretty proud of how the girls fought today. We went up against some bigger schools and some competition that was very tough for us, but we continued to play hard.

“I think some of our back row players that don’t get a lot of recognition did very well today. Gracie DuPont had a good first half today. Marissa Thompson … stepped in and did a good job pass servicing today and played some good defense.”

Carney hosts Florence, Wisconsin on Monday, Kingsford hosts Menominee on Tuesday and Houghton hosts Negaunee on Thursday.


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