NEGAUNEE - The best-laid plans worked for one set for the Munising Mustangs.
Then it all came crashing down.
Stephenson erased some of its own errors while forcing the Mustangs into some tentative play and roared back for a 3-1 MHSAA Class D regional semifinal victory in high school volleyball played at Negaunee's Lakeview Memorial Gym on Tuesday.
Munising's Karlee Decet (8) goes up for a kill against Stephenson during an MHSAA Class D regional volleyball match Tuesday at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Jenna Thompson)
The Eagles, winners of the Great Northern Conference that features the Upper Peninsula's biggest schools like Marquette, Escanaba and Kingsford, posted a 24-26, 25-2, 25-10, 25-14 win.
Stephenson advances to the regional championship match back at Lakeview at 7 p.m. on Thursday against Forest Park, a 3-0 winner over Lake Linden-Hubbell in Tuesday's first match.
"One of our main goals was to put a team out there that would be competitive in this regional," said coach Josh Cole of Munising, themselves co-champions of the Class D Central U.P. Conference. "We like to pride ourselves on being a scrappy defensive team, getting to balls no one else can get to.
"But Stephenson did that, too. They're the best defensive team we've seen this year.
"We have such a young team - we have just one senior - so we're ready to work hard to come back here again next year."
Four freshman are among the Mustangs' regulars - Bailey Downs, Marissa Immel, Frankie Mattson and Michaela Peramaki.
Munising, which finished the season 17-2 in dual matches, opened Tuesday by racing to a 6-1 lead on Mattson's serve due to several Eagles unforced errors, including a serve into the net, a carry, a touch of the net and several hits sent out of bounds.
Though Stephenson quickly came back to tie the score 7-7, the Mustangs maintained a lead for nearly the entire set, though never by more than four points.
When the Eagles would rally, someone like MHS junior Karlee Decet would slam a ball off a Stephenson blocker and onto the floor. Or Downs would direct a hit down the Stephenson sideline.
Nevertheless, Stephenson got to the first set point at 24-23 when Munising committed three straight errors.
Then the Mustangs answered with three in a row of their own to clinch it. Mattson tied the score on a slam into the right corner, Immel gave her team the lead on a deceptive tip over the net when it looked like she was making a set, and it ended when Stephenson was called for a carry.