Bulldogs volleyball uses fast start to shut down Gremlins
HOUGHTON — Before the Houghton Gremlins volleyball team knew what hit them, they were trailing 10-1 in the second set after dropping the opening set 25-13 to their rivals, the Hancock Bulldogs. The Bulldogs used that fast start to hold off the Gremlins as they pushed back in the second set and then won the third set as well to earn the three-set victory.
The Bulldogs won the second set 25-22 and third set 25-17.
For Kristan Coleman, coach of the Bulldogs, getting off to a fast start was something that she was proud of her team for doing, since it has not happened often yet this season.
“It was huge for us because, as I was talking about earlier, I feel like every match we come out slow,” she said. “There’s so many games that we drop the first set, and then we have to dig ourselves out of our hole. So, I was really proud of them to just come out pounding like that.”
Coleman hopes that her team learns from the way they beat the Gremlins.
“Now, I hope that we can learn from that and just keep doing that every single time,” she said. “We came out strong the second one, and then we let them back in a little bit.
“That’s just learning to hold that level of play the whole way through, and that momentum.”
For coach Blaire Zenner and the Gremlins, the first set was a nightmare scenario where nothing seemed to be working correctly.
“Our communication was not there,” she said. “We weren’t talking. (We) weren’t moving our feet. So, I don’t know if we were mentally ready to go. Hancock was, and they showed it.”
The Gremlins are a team with four seniors and five juniors, so they are relatively young this season. That youth shows through from time to time.
“It is an issue that we talked about,” Zenner said. “We need to be ready to go as soon as we step onto the court. We don’t have points to give, especially when you’re playing opponents like Hancock. If you’re not ready to go, then they will take advantage of that like they did tonight.”
Coleman was not happy with Hancock’s service game against Negaunee Tuesday. Thursday night, between seniors Brielle Kero and Lana Aho, and junior Reese Driscoll, the Bulldogs racked up multiple aces. Kero had six on the night, and Driscoll had three.
Where the service game was especially deadly was at the start of the second set, when Aho served up one ace as part of a six-point run to open the second and then Driscoll racked up four points to help Hancock take a 10-1 lead.
“I think we’re a strong serving team,” said Coleman. “Just the other day, when we were down at Negaunee, oh my gosh, we could not put a serve in to save our lives. So, this was big to come back.
“Brielle’s been kind of hot and cold sometimes in serving, and she came up huge for us today.”
Despite that early lead to the second set, the Bulldogs had to hang on in the end, as the Gremlins stormed back to get back within two points multiple times.
“We’ve been talking a lot about being resilient and just that mental toughness,” Zenner said. “I think, during the second set, we finally recognized that’s what it’s going to take for us to be in this game. I thought we did a nice job trying to get back from that, especially after that first set. So, it was nice to see them digging deep, finding it within themselves to be able to fight back and not just give up.”
The Gremlins did not have an answer throughout the night for junior Brooke Koskela, who continues to be a focal point for the Bulldogs’ offense and defense. She led all attackers with 10 kills, but also racked up 15 digs in the match.
“She’s our hub of our team,” said Coleman. “She really is. I put her serve-receive, passing in the middle, and everything. She’s just, legit, a top-notch, all-around player.”
For Houghton, seniors Sophia Neves and Danica Ryynanen had six kills each to lead the team.
While there is lot for the Gremlins to work on before the district playoffs roll around, Zenner pointed out that junior Helene Rinkinen had a nice night serving with three aces.
“It was really nice to see her step in and make some big points for us from behind the service line,” said Zenner. “That’s an area that we have been struggling with consistency this season.”
The Bulldogs are off until Tuesday when they return home to face the Gwinn Modeltowners at 7 p.m.
The Gremlins are back in action Saturday when they travel to take on Wrightstown, Wisconsin, at 10 a.m. A key conference matchup looms for the Gremlins on Tuesday, when they host Calumet.