Copper Kings advance with sweep of Westwood

The Copper Kings’ (from left) Kaylie Halonen, Jackie Kiilunen and Carly Loukus protect the back line Wednesday during a Division 3 District 65 semifinal match against the Patriots at the Calumet Gym. (Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette)

CALUMET — The high school volleyball post season got underway Wednesday night with the Calumet Copper Kings taking on the Westwood Patriots in Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 3 District 65 semifinal action. The Copper Kings won easily in three straight sets, 25-9, 25-11, and 25-8.

With the victory, the Copper Kings will take on the Hancock Bulldogs for the District 65 championship Thursday in Calumet. The Bulldogs downed the Ishpeming Hematites, 3-0, on Wednesday in their semifinal game to earn a spot in the championship game.

“The girls played well tonight and controlled the ball well,” said Calumet coach Kate Bonacorsi.

She noted that sets were won by ball control at the line. Long service runs were the name of the game for the Copper Kings.

After a brief 2-0 lead by the Patriots to open the first set, the Copper Kings’ Allison Bjorn posted five unanswered points at the line. She was followed by Laina Kariniemi who put together a run of eight to make it 17-4 lead and an eventual set victory.

In the second set, the Patriots scored their most points at 11, but they could not fend off a powerful swing from either Calumet’s captain Helen Beiring or Bjorn. Beiring had 11 kills on the night and Bjorn knocked down seven.

As they were throughout the season, the pair were a force to be reckoned with on Wednesday night. They didn’t slow down.

Tamara Johnson, coach of the Patriots, knew this coming into the game as she and her girls had faced the mighty Copper Kings once already this season.

“They (Calumet) are good and strong,” she said. “We wanted to work on our block coverage and our pass receive coming into tonight. I guess we did okay — better than last time.”

Jackie Kiilunen started off the third set with a run of five. She finished with an impressive nine aces on the night, much to the delight of her coach.

“When you control the first touch of the ball, then you control the game, whether that is at the service line or serve-receive,” said Bonacorsi. “Both of those came together well for us tonight.”

While the Patriots season came to an end, not all was lost according to Johnson.

“We had a good season,” she said. “These were girls who worked hard and grew tremendously as the year went on. It was a great group to work with.”


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