GWINN - Playing in a new district may have been one reason why the Gwinn High School girls volleyball team fell to visiting Manistique on Tuesday night.
The Emeralds themselves were certainly another.
Unable to fend off an aggressive Manistique attack, the Modeltowners saw their season come to an end with a four-set loss to the Emeralds, 25-19, 19-25, 25-22, 25-19, in MHSAA in Class C district tournament play.
"We were in a brand new district (with Newberry, Stephenson and Manistique)," GHS head coach Stephanie Bahrman said. "It was a new thing for us.
"I don't know if the girls knew how to mentally prepare for a new district. It's a new feeling."
The Modeltowners (8-4) forged a 1-1 tie and held a 14-9 lead in the fourth game before the Emeralds (12-5) put the match away.
Manistique will now look for its first district title ever at 7 p.m. EDT Thursday at Stephenson. The Eagles beat Newberry Tuesday in four sets, 25-16, 23-25, 25-15, 25-15.
"We've been playing non-emotional lately, but tonight, the girls on the floor were really excited," Emeralds' head coach Amy Nixon said.
"We (also) attacked the ball more. The last couple of matches, we've just been tipping the ball and you can't win tipping the ball. We really wanted to attack hard."
Monica Giles led the way with 11 kills, an ace and three blocks. Teammate Raeanne Robinson added 10 kills, five aces and a block.
For Gwinn, Shelby Talsma recorded 10 kills, four aces and three blocks. Bella Wedig posted 10 kills, three aces and a block while Chelsea Moton chipped in 11 kills.
Manistique led the entire way in Game 1, breaking a 15-15 tie with a late surge that saw Kelsey Gonyea record two aces to end the scoring.
"We knew winning Game 1 would be huge for us," Nixon said. "We're a momentum-building team and winning that first game took some pressure off."
Gwinn came back to take the second game, however, 25-19. The Modeltowners took their first lead of the night at 11-10 and wrapped up the win with a late 5-2 run.
Moton led the way with six kills - three in a row to give Gwinn a 24-17 lead - and Wedig contributed an ace and three kills.
"The girls shook off their nerves. They also started moving around and swinging more," Bahrman said.
Manistique rebounded in a big way, however, jumping out to a 9-2 lead in Game 3. Maggie Morrison recorded three straight aces in the early surge and came up with three kills overall for the Emeralds in the set.
The decisive fourth game saw Gwinn - behind an ace and two kills from Wedig - take the 14-9 edge, forcing Nixon to take a time out.
"I asked the girls 'how hard do you want it?'" the Manistique coach said. "I told them they had to communicate, attack and not hesitate."
The Emeralds took her words to heart, going on an 8-0 run to take the lead en route to the 25-19 win.
"We were being aggressive with our serves and playing our game," Bahrman said. "But the momentum switched and we couldn't get it back."
Nixon said her girls stepped up their game just at the right time Tuesday.
"It was better than I've seen them play all season," said the coach, whose team spilt with Gwinn in Mid-Peninsula Conference play during the regular season. "They came together at the right time."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.