Back and forth to the end: Negaunee Miners give up leads to Gwinn only to pull out district volleyball opener in fifth set

Gwinn’s Sydney St. Clair hits the ball over the net in a Class C district tournament volleyball match against the host Miners Tuesday evening at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“We knew that records aside, this is when it counted and we really wanted this one.” — Sarah MacDonald, head coach, Negaunee volleyball

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NEGAUNEE — Ally Jacobson led Negaunee with 10 kills as the Miners fended off a Gwinn comeback to upset the Mid-Peninsula Conference champions in a five-set Halloween thriller on Thursday.

That allowed host Negaunee to advance to the 7 p.m. Thursday title match against Westwood in this Class C district volleyball tournament being held at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium this week.

The Miners won 25-22, 25-14, 19-25, 20-25, 15-12.

Negaunee head coach Sarah MacDonald said defeating the M-PC regular-season champs was a matter of effort and motivation.

“Obviously our goal was to be at the top of the conference, but we kind of had to adjust those goals at the end of the season,” she said. “We knew that records aside, this is when it counted and we really wanted this one.”

Gwinn head coach Toni Roberts said despite the quick tournament exit, her players are still holding their heads high with the regular season title.

“What I told them tonight at the end of the match is that it takes a full season to win the conference but it takes two wins to win districts,” she said. “The conference title is huge, they had to fight all season long to get wins and then districts is two quick matches and it’s over. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls, they had an excellent season.”

With the Miners jumping out to a 13-6 lead in Set 1, the Modeltowners got on a roll, responding with eight consecutive points to go up 14-13 on an attack error. The Miners answered the call by regaining the lead after a kill from Ielee Shiroda and a Gwinn attack error. The set remained close to the end, and with the Miners up 23-22, another Gwinn attack error put the Miners at set point and Shiroda finished it off with a kill.

The second set was similar, with Negaunee taking a quick 6-3 lead before the Modeltowners scored the next five to go up 8-6 and the Miners retaking a 9-8 advantage on an attack error. It was the second half of the set where Negaunee showed its strength, scoring 15 of the last 18 points to build a 2-0 lead in the match.

In Set 3, the Miners again jumped out to a 5-1 lead. And the Modeltowners once again fought back. With the Miners still ahead 9-5, Gwinn went on a five-point run and took the lead on a service ace, then added another six-point run that got it back in the match.

In Set 4, the Miners’ early lead was smaller at 4-2 as the Modeltowners took its first lead of the set at 10-9. Later with the set tied 20-20, Gwinn scored the final five points, finishing it off with two kills by Tierra Taylor to force the fifth set.

Despite apparently having lost momentum, Negaunee never trailed. Every time the Modeltowners scored, the Miners responded. With the Miners ahead 10-8, the Modeltowners scored on a kill from Sydney St. Clair and an attack error to tie it 10-10. Trading points once more to make the score 11-11, Negaunee then hit three consecutive points, including two kills from Jacobson to set up match point at 14-11. Gwinn scored once more but Negaunee finished the match on an attack error.

Jacobson had four assists, one ace and five blocks on the night. Shiroda also tallied 10 kills and two aces.

For the Modeltowners, Brenna Bruce led the way with four kills and 15 assists while Trisha McGuire had eight kills, 12 assists and an ace.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.