EWEN—Pity the volleyball teams that tried to stand up to Forest Park during the Class D District 127 tournament here last week.
It was an impossible task. The Lady Trojans have turned up heir intensity several notches in the last few weeks, and nobody else had a ghost of a chance. FP blasted away Watersmeet 3-0 in the semifinals Nov. 6 and came back a night later to demolish Bessemer 3-0 for the district title.
This week, they head to Negaunee for the Class D regionals. The Lady Trojans will face Lake Linden-Hubbell in a semifinal match Nov. 12. Munising and Stephenson are in the other half of the bracket.
“Overall, just a good night,” said Coach Kim Bjork after the trophy presentation Nov. 7. “Their energy was the best I’ve seen all year, as far as the excitement and talking and cheering and everything else.
“I like what I’m seeing from our team,” she added. “They are elevating their level of play with each match.”
• The Lady Trojans stormed through their semifinal match Nov. 6, flattening Watersmeet 3-0 on scores of 25-4, 25-12, 25-12.
Just what Coach Bjork wanted to see. “Great team win,” she wrote. “Our girls didn’t let up.”
She said her girls took care of the ball and limited their errors. “Just an all-around good match for us.” The Forest Park reserves and girls called up from the JV team got some district tourney action as the night went on.
Lexi Gussert, 12 kills, 6 aces; Kendra Campbell, 4 kills, 5 aces; Libby Shamion, 2 kills, 4 aces; Maria Stankewicz, 24 assists; Michaela Steiro, 9 kills; Susie Toivonen, 2 kills; Annie Taylor, 2 kills.
• Bessemer had defeated Wakefield-Marenisco and Ewen-Trout Creek to get to the finals, but the Speedgirls hadn’t seen the Lady Trojans before. In about 50 minutes, their season was over, with Forest Park winning 25-13, 25-9 and 25-12.
The Speedgirls’ biggest problem? When they had the serve, they had a very tough time winning points against the Lady Trojans (something many opponents can say). Especially early in each set, Forest Park won the ball back from Bessemer’s servers right away almost every time. You can’t get ahead in volleyball if you can’t win points on serve.
In the first set, Forest Park used hard attacks by Lexi Gussert, Libby Shamion and Kendra Campbell to build a 7-2 lead. Later, Campbell served up four and Shamion three.
In the second set, the Speedgirls’ cause wasn’t helped when three of their first four serves were bad—into the net or long. FP was slow to take advantage until Campbell’s second turn on serve—she fired in eight, and Shamion followed with four. That was that.
When Campbell and Shamion combined for seven service points to start the third set, Coach Bjork started pulling her starters. All the reserves got in on the action in the district-winning set. Catherine Bloomburg’s ace serve ended it.
“We did a nice job tonight,” Coach Bjork said after the medal ceremony, even if the girls missed a few serves.
“I was happy with what we did,” she said. “And to get everybody off the bench a little playing time tonight, that was nice to see.”
Beyond that, the girls looked very loose and relaxed as they blew away the competition. Just ask the team leader, Lexi Gussert, who obviously didn’t take her rare misplays very hard. She laughed them off—and came back hard moments later.
“You’re not going to play well unless you’re having fun,” she said after the match. “You could tell everyone has their heart in it, and that’s why we make it so far every year.
“So we’re hoping to keep going.”
Lexi Gussert, 14 kills, 3 blocks; Libby Shamion, 6 kills, 5 aces, 2 digs; Kendra Campbell, 2 klills, 6 aces; Maria Stankewicz, 23 assists; Kelsi Hendrickson, 2 aces; Adel Isaacson, 2 aces.
• This week, it’s off to regionals in Negaunee. The Lady Trojans will face Lake Linden-Hubbell in the first semifinal match Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 6 p.m. Eastern Time (5 Central). In the second semi match, Munising goes up against Stephenson at about 7 Eastern.
The regional championship match is Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 Eastern Time (6 Central). The regional champ advances to the Class D quarterfinal match on Tuesday, Nov. 19, against the winner of the St. Ignace regional.
As for late last week, the state’s website did not say where the quarterfinal match will be played. But everyone knows where the winner goes next: the Kellogg Center in Battle Creek, site of the state semifinals and finals.