NEGAUNEE - It took four games, but the Negaunee High School girls volleyball team opened Class C district tournament play at home with a win Monday night at Lakeview Memorial gym.
The Miners handed the visiting Ishpeming Hematites a 25-25-19, 25-20, 25-27, 25-16 loss to advance to the championship match at 7 p.m. Thursday against Gwinn, winners in three straight games over Westwood.
"We came out with some intensity," NHS head coach Annette Gleason said. "The first two games, we had good movement and communicated well on the court. We didn't let the ball drop, either.
Ishpeming High School junior Jessica Spencer (7) and Negaunee High School junior Emilee Lokken both try to tip the ball onto the opposite side of the net during a match Monday at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"(Later), our seniors picked us up. They kept the team fired up."
Rosalie Anderson led the Miners (11-8) with 10 kills and three aces. Teammate Jayda Johnson added six kills and two aces, while Hannah Laurila recorded 10 assists and Adena Anderson 18 digs.
Jessica Spencer powered Ishpeming (10-19-7) with 11 kills, two blocks and 11 digs. Mollie Pruett chipped in 26 assists and three kills, while Sinead Korvela posted seven kills.
"I'm happy with the way the girls played," Ishpeming head coach Amy Rautiola said. "This contest was evenly matched.
"There wasn't any one thing that Negaunee did better than we did. They were just more consistent."
The Miners - who beat the Hematites all three times the two teams met this season - claimed the first two games despite the Hematites leading early in both.
Negaunee led just 17-16 late in game No. 1, but went on an 8-3 surge to win going away behind a pair of aces by Rosalie Anderson.
Ishpeming held a 14-9 advantage in the second game with the help of a Cheyanne Wedgworth ace, and kills by Korvela and Spencer.
Gleason called a timeout and Negaunee then went on a 12-3 run before putting the game away. Anderson and BreAnna Leanes recorded two aces apiece in the rally.
"I told (my players) we had to start using our front-row hitters more and be aware of Spencer on the court," the Miners' coach said.
Ishpeming didn't want to go down quietly, however. The Hematites, despite trailing 14-8 at one point, turned to Spencer in Game 3. The junior responded with three kills and a block during a 12-6 run that forged a 20-20 tie.
The two teams then went back and forth, with Ishpeming twice getting to game point before clinching the win.
"We struggled at the beginning of the third," said Rautiola, noting her team trailed 7-1. "I saw a defeated look in the girls' faces.
"But once we got one full rotation around and Pruett started serving well, she took it upon herself to say 'This match is not over.'"
Ishpeming led 6-1 in the fourth game and Gleason took another timeout.
"I told the girls they needed to get competitive and reminded them what they were playing for," she said.
The Miners took her words to heart. Behind three kills by Aubrey Nyman and two aces apiece by Jayda Johnson and Adena Anderson, Negaunee rolled to a 22-7 surge to put the match on ice.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.