MARQUETTE - The Gladstone girls should be known forever as the comeback kids after their performance in winning the Marquette Invitational high school volleyball tournament on Saturday.
After waiting for two other teams to complete a match to find out if they would even get out of pool play, the Braves lost the opening set three straight times in the knockout rounds before earning the tourney title and the curved glass trophy by beating Stephenson, 16-25, 25-17, 15-10.
"We had to fight hard all day," Gladstone coach Liz Gendron said.
"We served our best in this match," she said about the championship, which marked the Braves' first victory over Stephenson in four tries this season. "That gives us a chance to run our offense."
And run it they did through a pair of powerful, pinpoint hitters. Senior Jessica Beaudry, who actually spent her early years living in Marquette, powered the Braves through the second set with slams variously hit straight down the line, to the back line and even one or two to the opposite corner of Stephenson's court.
Then junior Lexi Hongisto used brute power late that set and into the third to thwart many defensive formations the Eagles displayed.
Beaudry finished the title match with 17 kills, an ace and nine digs, while Hongisto added nine kills, two aces and 12 digs. Senior Summer Demeuse, a recent convert to libero, made 14 digs while senior Callie Jensen had 26 assists.
Previously, Stephenson had defeated Gladstone in a pair of Great Northern Conference dual matches, then swept both sets when the teams squared off during pool play Saturday at Marquette Senior High School.
Just two of the Marquette area's six teams advanced out of pool play - Ishpeming prevailed by one point on a tiebreaker after compiling a 3-3 record, while Marquette raced to a perfect 6-0 record to not only advance, but earn a bye in the quarterfinals.
But both teams lost to Stephenson in its march to the finals. The Hematites fell 25-9, 25-20, while the Redettes lost 25-15, 16-25, 17-15.
In pool play, Marquette swept the Hematites 25-11, 25-20, Bessemer 25-16, 27-25, and Chassell 25-14, 25-17, while Ishpeming also swept Chassell 25-19, 25-14, and split with Bessemer. The Speed Girls match, which the Hematites won 27-25 then lost 27-26, decided the tiebreaker as Ishpeming accumulated one more point than Bessemer.
"I felt like we could've played better against all the teams, but that may be partly due to trying something new," IHS coach Amy Rautiola said. "I switched our rotation around this week since we didn't have any matches, but while it may have hurt us a bit today, in the long run we should be better off."
In the quarterfinal loss to Stephenson, Ishpeming sophomore Sinead Korvela had four kills, three digs and two aces, while junior Jessica Spencer added four kills and three blocks.
Redettes first-year coach Mike Morgan saw progress with his team.
"We got contributions from everybody, and the way we played and the way we executed, we're improving," he said.
Marquette's overall statistics for nine games Saturday included 31 kills and 25 digs for junior Hunter Viitala, 22 kills for senior Tayler Smith, and 19 digs and 41 assists for senior Courtney McGovern.
Gwinn and Westwood got stuck in what soccer aficionados would call the "pool of death" that also included the two finalists. The Modeltowners got their only two wins of the day against the Patriots, 25-14, 25-13. Gwinn lost to Gladstone, 25-16, 25-20, and to Stephenson, 25-19, 27-25, while Westwood fell to the Braves, 25-20, 25-14, and to the Eagles, 25-12, 25-13.
Superior Central and Negaunee were part of the third pool that included No. 1 seed Hancock, which like Marquette and Stephenson compiled a 6-0 record in pool play.
SC got its lone wins against Negaunee, 25-22, 25-7, while losing to Hancock 25-16, 25-17, and to Menominee 25-19, 25-16. The Miners also fell to Hancock, 25-10, 25-10, and to Menominee, 25-16, 25-18.