GLADSTONE - Prior to Saturday, no team had won the "The Rock" Invitational volleyball tournament three consecutive years.
The Houghton Gremlins, however, changed that Saturday by outlasting the Marquette Redettes 24-26, 25-12, 25-21, for their third straight title.
With the victory came the retirement of the tournament's first rock, which will now make permanent residence in Houghton. A new rock will be present for next year's tourney.
Brittany Doney of Ishpeming tips the ball back over the net as Halie LeSage, left, looks on during the Hematites’ match against Norway at “The Rock” high school volleyball tournament in Gladstone on Saturday. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin Marietti)
"In some ways this is the most satisfying of the three in that we set a goal to become the first team to win it three times in a row," Houghton coach John Christianson said.
Houghton senior Blaire Zenner collected 15 kills and two blocks in the championship match, including two straight kills for a 22-17 advantage in the deciding set.
Junior Jada Riutta had four aces and just one kill. But her kill came at the end of the third set, adding an exclamation point to Houghton's title.
"Between the first and second set, we talked about the difference of playing to win and playing not to lose. We played tentatively in the first set. Then, we came out on fire in the second set and were able to sustain it. I think we caught Marquette a little off balance."
The Gremlins reached the title match with a 25-14, 27-25 triumph over Escanaba.
Marquette topped Gwinn 27-25, 25-22 in the other semifinal.
"Marquette had a couple incredible hustle points," Christianson said. "We knew they weren't going to let the ball go to the floor. They took advantage of some things we weren't doing very well."
Marquette County players making the 15-member all-tournament team included Elizabeth Dauphinais-VanBuren of Westwood, Alesha O'Brien of Ishpeming, Joy Oberg and Liana Storm of Marquette, and Morgan Bruce and Bella Wedig of Gwinn.
In pool play, Houghton beat Rapid River (25-11, 25-9), Marquette (25-21, 25-18), Norway (25-17, 25-21) and split with Ishpeming (25-21, 23-25).
Hancock topped Gladstone (25-22, 25-21), then split with Westwood (23-25, 25-18) and bowed to Esky (25-16, 25-15) prior to beating Gwinn (25-21, 25-22).
Hancock's second set with Gwinn was tied at 19. But a siedout sent the Bulldogs ahead to stay and they gained a 21-19 lead on a kill by senior Lily Williams.