IRON MOUNTAIN - If Mid-Peninsula Conference volleyball teams had a choice right now, they'd probably just as soon skip Iron Mountain on the schedule.
Negaunee could do little to match the Mountaineers' rapid attack on Thursday, as Iron Mountain cruised to a three-set 25-17, 25-14, 25-17 victory.
The Mountaineers, since dropping the first set in a 3-1 win at Manistique on Sept. 20, have now won nine straight sets over conference opponents.
Negaunee’s Ashley Veale (2) throws down a spike at Iron Mountain’s Maria Pirkola (10) and Katelynn Johnson (5) in Thursday’s Mid-Peninsula Conference match in the Mountaineers’ gym. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Theresa Peterson)
"We tried to play fast tonight, and they proved to me they could do it," Mountaineers coach Jeanne Newberry said. "We started playing that two-ball, and that two-ball is so important because it's quick."
Setter Katelynn Johnson served as evidence of the Mountaineers quick approach. She pushed across six balls for kills, other times turning digs into ready-to-hit sets at the net.
Maria Pirkola led all hitters with nine kills. Abby Gerhard added seven, and Sarah Girard threw down six more.
"I think it was our best hitting night by far," Newberry said. "And we had the height to do it. They weren't all big kills either, but placement kills. The girls are getting smarter about where they want to put the ball.
"When the girls found out that Negaunee beat Norway (on Tuesday), yesterday's practice was one of the most intense, and they showed it tonight on the floor."
The Mountaineers pulled away easily in the first two sets. Negaunee, led by Ashley Veale with four kills and Haley Blake with three, hung around in set three but could never really close the gap to less than five points.
"Since the first time we played them, their hitters have really improved," Negaunee coach Annette Gleason said. "Our girls were able to block, but it's just a different pace than we play at elsewhere.
"It's hard for my girls to find the timing for defense."
Veale also led Negaunee with five digs.
"I think my girls played well, they tried hard and didn't give up," Gleason said. "But you have to give it to Iron Mountain. They've always been a strong team in our conference. They are all-around complete."
Iron Mountain proved just as strong on defense and serving as they were on the attack. Gerhard led with 12 digs, while Girard added another eight. Kari Sanford and Pirkola each chipped in five more.