Exhausted but exhilarated, West Iron’s girls congratulate each other following their five-set win in the Class C regional semifinals at Norway Nov. 6.
NORWAY—It was a season of ups and downs for Wet Iron’s volleyball team. So why would the post-season be any different?
The Wykons’ season ended Nov. 8 with a crushing 3-0 loss to West Pac Conference champion Calumet, who had defeated West Iron twice earlier this season.
But that only happened after the Wykons defeated Iron Mountain and Ironwood to win their first district championship in 12 years. Then they reached the regional title match by surviving a five-set battle against Stephenson in the semifinal match Nov. 6.
The young Wykon team (only one senior) can look back on a very successful post-season as they think ahead to next season.
Ups and downs: The trade-off with young teams is that you get tremendous enthusiasm but also great inconsistency. The Wykons were anything but consistent in their semifinal match with Stephenson Nov. 6, but they still won 3-2 (13-25, 25-19, 25-16, 11-25, 15-12).
“That’s youth, fully on display tonight,” said Coach Brenda Grubbs after the match. “Excitement at a whole new level.”
West Iron took a ride on the roller coaster, and all its fans came along for the ride. Set 1 was a downer. The Eagles had spells of two, three and five sets to build a 14-4 lead, and no Wykon got more than one point on serve. The Eagles won going away, 25-13.
“Mo” moves: Set two also went the Eagles’ way—at first. Stephenson built up a 12-7 lead, but the Wykons didn’t allow extended serving spells and stayed close. Momentum turned when Amy Richardson struck for three points, and Cassilyn Pellizzer followed with three more, pushing the Wykons in front 17-14.
A pair of bad WIC serves allowed the Eagles get within a point, 18-17, but a wide shot gave the serve back to West Iron, and Alexis Golfis fired in five winners, getting West Iron to 24-17. The Eagles got a final chance when they earned a side-out on WIC’s first match point, but Emilie Christensen’s kill got the winner and evened the match at 1-1.
Momentum stayed with West Iron in the third set. After Stephenson took an early 3-0 lead, Abbie Grubbs struck back for four and a 7-5 lead the Wykons never gave up. Credit the WIC defense: After the early triple, they allowed the Eagles only two more points on serve. Most of the time, West Iron won the serve back right away, as two points from India Schindler and later three from Christensen moved West Iron to a 2-1 lead—one win from a berth in the finals.
“After you”: But with a 2-1 lead, West Iron went back on their heels and let the Eagles right back into the match, showing little fight in the fourth set. If the third set was West Iron at its best, the fourth was its worst. On three different plays, Wykon players let the ball fall between them. (“After you, my dear Alphonse!”) Stephenson built up scoring runs of six, seven and four points to build a 21-5 lead, and soon the sides were lining up for the 15-point fifth set.
This time, the Wykons came out strong. Grubbs struck early with a six-point spell, off an ace and several wild Eagles hits. That put West Iron ahead 8-1—halfway there—but the Eagles struck back with seven straight, helped by three aces, to tie it 10-10. Coach Grubbs burned both her time-outs trying to halt her team’s slide, and finally an Eagles’ mix-up at the net gave West Iron the side-out it needed.
From that point, West Iron shored up its game, not allowing another Eagles service point. It was tied at 10, 11 and 12 before Richardson took serve at 13-12. Her first hard serve was deflected out of bounds for an ace (14-12), and WIC won the match on a ball that deflected off a metal beam above the court. The Eagles couldn’t recover in time, and West Iron was in the regional finals after another wild ride.
A quick end: That wild ride came to a quick end during the regional title match against Calumet Nov. 8.
The Wykons had another very slow start, and this time they didn’t escape the consequences: The Copper Kings played a strong, confident game and breezed to a 3-0 win on scores of 25-4, 25-10, 25-9.
The Wykons won the first point of the match, but Calumet got the side-out and Molly Loukus served 15 winners in a row. Long service runs boosted Calumet in the other sets—eight straight by Kristy Lasanen in the second set and nine in a row by Lasanen in the third.
After riding on emotion and adrenaline in their five-set wins during the tournament, the Wykons’ tank was empty. Calumet advances to the Class C quarterfinals on Nov. 13.
Coming up: But their post-season run should give West Iron a boost heading into the off-season. Next fall, they will have plenty of varsity experience—Christensen was the team’s only senior. Everyone else should return a year older, a year stronger and a year more experienced in the ways of varsity volleyball.
Winning their district and reaching the regional finals is an exciting way to end the season. The Wykons had a taste of how much fun it is to succeed in big matches. If they set a higher standard for themselves next fall, who knows how far they can go?