Heads up! Maria Stankewicz sets the ball for a teammate’s hit into the Mid Pen side during Forest Park’s match Sept. 4. From left are Mindy DeNell, Lexi Gussert and Michaela Steiro.
CRYSTAL FALLS—For the first two games here Sept. 4, Mid Peninsula’s volleyball team tried to play like Forest Park. Good luck with that!
But then Forest Park started looking like Mid Pen. It made for some anxious moments before the Lady Trojans wrapped up a 3-0 win on scores of 25-7, 25-8, 25-21.
That was FP’s only match last week. The team visits North Dickinson and North Central this week before hosting the Forest Park Invitational on Sept. 15.
FP is 10-3-2 overall and 3-0 vs. Skyline Conference foes.
Too easy: That’s what it was for two sets. The powerful Lady Trojans raced away to big early leads (22-4 in the first game, 21-4 in the second). Gina Graff opened with six-point serving spells both times, and teammates Kendra Campbell, Maria Stankewicz and Marie DeMuri kept the pressure up.
At the net, Lexi Gussert and Sam Nylund were pounding in kills. When Mid Pen got serve, the Wolverines struggled simply to get one across.
That changed in the third set. Coach Kim Bjork made some lineup changes after the two easy wins, mixing some younger players in with the starters. Later, Bjork said some weren’t sure of their role on the floor. “They don’t respond well to change yet.”
Late charge: Toni Santi and Campbell helped FP to a 7-2 lead early. But this time, the Wolverines served played much better and rallied to within one, next tied it at 17 and then went ahead 19-18. Coach Bjork called both of her time-outs, trying to get her team back in order.
Mid Pen led 21-19, but after Graff got the serve back, she fired in five winners to wrap up the win, with Santi and Campbell getting late kills to end it. Regardless, the coach had a long talk with her team before they took the net down.
“Guess it’s just more drilling it into them and more focus on the bench,” she said. “When they’re on the bench, they need to be watching, an active participant.”
The Wolverines have some good players—Krysta Van Damme, in particular, battled Gussert hard at the net. “If they can get a pass up,” said the Trojans’ coach, “they have some decent hitters.”
In practice: Lately, the Lady Trojans have been working on hitting deeper, more variety on plays and speeding up their pace. “Passing has been our big thing from day one,” said the coach.
“It’s improving a lot. We’re staying down on the ball. We’re not getting the backspin passes—more of the forward passes. Also hitting and reaching for the ball and making good contact.”
Stats: Lexi Gussert, 19 kills, 3 blocks, 3 digs; Sam Nylund, 4k, 3d. Kendra Campbell, 7k, 2d. Gina Graff, 8 aces, 5d. Maria Stankewicz: 3 aces, 3d, 25 assists. Mindy DeNell, 8d, 2 aces. Maria DeMuri, 3d.
JV blitz: The Lady Trojan JVs, coached by Ashley Metz, won 2-0 over Mid Pen. One game was a 25-0 shutout—sophomore Susie Toivonen got the opening serve and fired in 25 straight winners. Mid Pen never took serve in that game.
Coming up: The Trojans visit North Dickinson Sept. 11 and North Central on Sept. 13. The Forest Park Invitational is Sept. 15, and FP hosts Rapid River on Sept. 17.
The invitational starts at 9 a.m. and involves 10 teams, including Lake Linden, Munising, West Iron, Iron Mountain, Florence, North Dickinson and L’Anse.
Both Lake Linden and Munising could reach the Class D regional tournament in November, Bjork noted, so this is a good chance to look them over.