MARQUETTE - During the 19th century, Michigan almost moved its state capital to Calumet.
That never came to fruition, but residents of the Keweenaw Peninsula town can still claim they are the capital of Upper Peninsula high school volleyball.
The Copper Kings defended their title at the Articatz Invitational Autumn Classic held in Marquette all day Saturday.
Marquette’s Addison Piotrowski sets the ball during the second match against Houghton at the Articatz Autumn Volleyball Invitational on Saturday at Bothwell Middle School gymnasium in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Calumet won all 12 of its games, the most important a pair of victories over nearby rival Houghton in the championship match, 25-20, 25-23.
The two teams cruised to first-round byes by winning separate pools, the only loss between them coming in the Gremlins' morning split against Marquette, 25-22, 23-25.
Houghton got revenge for that loss in the semifinals, turning back the Redettes 25-22, 25-14 to earn its berth in the finals.
"One of our objectives is to always represent the Copper Country well at tournaments," longtime Houghton coach John Christianson said.
He said his team has just one starter back playing her same position this season, middle hitter Blaire Zenner, who finished the day with 21 kills, eight service aces and four blocks in a dozen games.
"We have a couple others who played regularly last year, but they're playing different positions now," he said. "So we're still putting the pieces together.
"I think we got some positive answers to some questions today."
Calumet also defeated the Gremlins 3-1 in a West PAC match in Houghton on Thursday, losing the first game on foreign ground before storming back for three straight victories.
"Any tournament we enter, we set our goal at winning it," CHS coach Lisa Twardzik said. "I was pleased with how our team played. They played consistently, they played well together and I was also pleased with their communication throughout the day."
That was evident as the Copper Kings won every pool game by at least a 25-17 count, then dispatched Rapid River in the semifinals, 25-15, 25-7.
In the title tilt, Calumet jumped out to an 8-1 advantage in Game 1 and kept a lead of at least four points until Houghton pulled within 22-19 and 23-20.
The Kings made several top-notch plays to put the game away on a kill hit low onto the Houghton side and a serve reception by the Gremlins that went flying to the back wall.
The teams fought tooth-and-nail in Game 2, with the score tied at 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22 and 23 before Calumet's Molly Loukus slammed the ball through two Houghton blockers and a hitting error by the Gremlins ended the day.
In the finals, Calumet middle hitter Ellen Twardzik made six kills along with a block and service ace, while outside hitters Lexie Rowe and Kristy Lasanen each had four kills.
Two other area squads joined Marquette in the field of 10 schools.
The Redettes had the best finish among them, placing second in Houghton's pool with a 6-2 record. In addition to the split with the Gremlins, the Redettes swept Escanaba, 25-16, 25-19; and Carney-Nadeau, 25-18, 25-22; and split with Chassell, 25-18, 25-27.
MSHS faced Chassell again in the quarterfinals, sweeping 25-15, 25-13, before falling to Houghton in the semis.
"Our girls are seeing the game better as the season has gone along, but we're just not finishing points and games against better opponents," Marquette coach Sarah Peura said. "When one player breaks down, it snowballs. The trust breaks down, the teamwork breaks down."
In the other pool, Superior Central needed one win in its final two-game matchup against Rapid River to insure a spot in the quarterfinals. The Cougars pulled it off, splitting with the Rockets, 25-17, 22-25, though coach Kris Bray was dismayed that her team blew a 10-point lead in the second game.
"We've got the talent, but we just get tight when we're under pressure, and the communication isn't there," Bray said. "It's something we have to work on."
In pool play, SC also split with Bessemer, 23-25, 25-18, and Gwinn, 27-26, 25-27, while losing a pair to Calumet, 25-17, 25-10.
"I'm pleased to get to the (quarterfinal) bracket. When you get to compete against a team like Calumet, even if you lose, that's a win, that's a positive."
RR then advanced past the Cougars in the quarterfinals, 25-13, 25-17.
Gwinn pulled off splits with SC and Bessemer, 25-23, 25-27, while losing a pair to both Rapid River, 26-24, 25-16, and Calumet, 25-17, 25-10.
"We're a real young team, and we still have a lot of work to do," Modeltowners coach Stephanie Bahrman said. "Hopefully we'll be there with other teams by the end of the season."
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org