Lexi Gussert winds up to lower the boom with a hard kill into the Wykons’ end during the Oct. 16 match at Forest Park. Next to her is Libby Shamion. Near the net for WIC are Emilie Christensen, Sierra Rasmussen and Amy Richardson.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Forest Park’s game was in the pink Oct. 16 when the Lady Trojans hosted West Iron County in their only match last week.
But Coach Kim Bjork feels her team would be better prepared for the post-season—just a week away—if she had another strong presence on the front line.
Forest Park won 3-0 on scores of 25-22, 25-17 and 25-18. The season record goes to 25-3-3 overall and remains 11-0 in Skyline Conference action.
New look: This was FP’s annual “pink-out” game with the Wykons for breast cancer awareness. The Lady Trojans were in hot pink shirts, and the officials’ shirts had a tie-dyed pink pattern. That’s no surprise. Normally at pink-out games, you see more pink than at a Hello Kitty back to school sale.
This time the Wykons wore a dark gray shirt with a more subtle message. In front: a volleyball, around which was printed “Outplay, outwit, outlast, survive!” In back, above and below the number, it read, “Fighters among the survivors. Honoring the taken. Never giving up hope.”
All in pink, of course.
Hard-fought: Forest Park got three-point turns from Gina Graff and Lexi Gussert during the first set—Gussert’s jump serve was good for two aces. West Iron tied the score three times: on a three and a two from Megan Eagloski and a two from Amy Richardson. Richardson’s spell tied it at 22-22, but Abby Sommers ended it with two points, the last coming on an ace that hit the deck between two Wykons.
“We just couldn’t close the door,” Coach Bjork said. “We let ‘em back in.”
The second set saw threes by Maria Stankewicz and Gussert (three aces) that put the Lady Trojans up 10-4 early. Graff later had a run of five for a 21-9 lead. Two by Abbie Grubbs and three by Emilie Christensen got WIC to within 23-17 before FP nailed down the 25th point.
Sommers struck for an early five in the third set, and FP had few problems wrapping up the win—the match ended on kills by Mindy DeNell and Maria DeMuri. Only Eagloski served more than one point in the final set.
Help wanted: Gussert had another huge statistical match—13 kills, 10 digs, eight aces, two blocks. But after the match, Bjork voiced her concern that the rest of the team is too reliant on the big junior.
“We just need somebody else to step up,” she said after the match. “We cannot ride on Lexi the rest of the year—especially as we hit tournaments.
“People are going to start blocking her. We need girls to step up, and we just don’t have another girl who’s going to step up right now. Hopefully, somebody will.”
In the past, when FP has had a strong girl in the middle, the team also had an outside hitter who can complement her and provide a second threat to opponents. “We have some good players—Gina [Graff] is a great back row player, and Maria [Stankewicz] is doing a fine job setting. We just don’t have another big hitter.
“We need another couple girls who will step up and swing at the ball.”
Numbers: Lexi Gussert 13 kills, 10 digs, 8 aces, 2 blocks; Mindy DeNell, 6 k, 16 d; Gina Graff, 22 d, 2 aces; Abby Sommers, 10 d; Maria Stankewicz, 26 assists, 3 k, 3 aces, 1 block; Libby Shamion, 4 k, 3 d; Maria DeMuri, 4 k.
Coming up: The regular season ends this week. The Lady Trojans visit Kingsford Oct. 23 and will host Bark River-Harris on Oct. 25, senior recognition night.
Forest Park hosts the Class D District 127 tournament, which starts Oct. 29, but the Trojans don’t play until the semifinals Oct. 31, facing the Bessemer/Wakefield-Marenisco winner.