GWINN - Gwinn and Negaunee high schools got together for a volleyball match in the Modeltowners gym on Thursday night and gave fans a little bit of everything.
There were plenty of evenly contested stretches and several long point streaks by each team; and there was some good play and some not-so-good play.
In the end, the match lasted a full five games before Gwinn pulled out a five-set 25-17, 24-26, 25-15, 24-26, 15-6 victory.
Gwinn sophomore Ashley Childs, right, attempts to set the ball as senior teammate Kaylee Sanderson watches during a Mid-Peninsula Conference volleyball match against Negaunee in the Modeltowners’ gym on Thursday evening. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
"A couple of times we got stuck on their serve," Modeltowners coach Stephanie Bahrman said. "But that was our only problem area.
"Our girls just kept attacking and attacking. They really wanted it tonight."
Gwinn had a decided edge in height, making play at the net easier for the Modeltowners. And while the Miners did their fair share of hitting, NHS coach Annette Gleason knew her team had to be better in other phases of the game to win.
"I thought what lost it for us was missing a lot of serves," Gleason said. "Our defense was pretty good, and we didn't hit badly at all."
She was pleased with her team's play after being swept 3-0 at home by Manistique on Tuesday.
"But it's tough to lose a five-setter, especially in a conference match," Gleason said as the Miners fell to 1-4 and Gwinn improved to 3-2 in the Mid-Peninsula Conference.
The Modeltowners were at their best in the final game, keyed by the serving of senior left hitter Morgan Bruce.
She took over with the score tied 1-1 and just before she knocked a serve just wide on Negaunee's far sideline, she staked her team to an 11-1 advantage.
Despite being interrupted twice by Negaunee timeouts, Bruce had five aces in that streak, three of them sinking liners that landed at the feet of the Miners' back row and another that tipped off the top of the net and died just after making it over.
"Morgan did an excellent job on her serve," Bahrman said as Bruce finished with nine aces for the match.
Bahrman was also pleased with the effort of her "quarterback," senior setter Kaylee Sanderson.
"She did a fabulous job of setting up our hitters," her coach said. "She gave everyone a chance to swing (at the ball)."
That was reflected in the Modeltowners' 43 kills, as nine players had at least one, led by 6-foot-3 junior middle hitter Shelby Talsma with a dozen, 5-8 junior right hitter Bella Wedig with 10 and 5-10 junior left hitter Katie Aho with nine.
"Talsma is using her height and really has a good concept of where to place the ball," Bahrman said.
In the opening game, Negaunee stayed close until a string of serves by Talsma made it 22-15.
Gwinn again asserted itself early in Game 2, but this time Negaunee ran off the long string of points as junior setter Jayda Johnson brought her team from down 15-10 to ahead 19-15.
The hometowners responded, tying the game at 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 before a pair of Gwinn blockers were unable to stop Negaunee junior Kirsti Rajala's slam followed by a Modeltowner mistake to even the match.
GHS reasserted itself in Game 3, scoring the final nine points on Bruce's serve to turn a 16-15 nailbiter into a rout.
Nothing separated the teams in Game 4, as each team kept retaking the lead with the score tied a minimum of 13 times, including at 19, 20, 21, 22 and 24.
The game again came down to back-to-back superior plays by the Miners, with a tip hitting the hole in the Gwinn defense and a cross-court slam hit by sophomore Katelynn Johnson barely staying inbounds to end it.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.