Powerful Houghton Gremlins sweep Westwood Patriots in volleyball

Westwood junior Bethany Laakso, right, eyes a bump while sophomore teammate Livvie Wood looks on during a high school volleyball match at Houghton on Thursday night. (Photo courtesy Sandy Maki)

HOUGHTON — After a number of matches away from home in volleyball tournaments to start the season, Houghton got to finally play in front of its home crowd and put on a show in a three-set sweep of Westwood on Thursday.

The Gremlins (2-0 West PAC) prevailed 25-14, 25-15, 25-12.

HHS coach John Christianson said he has been working hard with his girls on their focus.

“One of our themes this year has been focus, and I thought we came out really focused at the beginning of that first set,” he said. “Part of that was McKenna Foster going back and serving all of those points.

“I thought we were really focused (early on) and then we lost our focus and we just got sloppy.”

Despite some mistakes, however, the only coach Houghton has ever had felt that his squad regained its composure.

“I thought we maintained our focus pretty well (once we got it back),” Christianson said. “I was pretty happy with that part.”

On the other bench, Westwood coach Milton Braga was happy with how his team stayed competitive throughout despite coming up short.

“We’re a very young team (that) played against a very strong (and) well-coached team,” he said. “For the first time this season, we actually planned the game. We were just locked up, plus these guys are really good.

“I’m really proud of the job that the girls did.”

Moving forward, Braga wants to see his team progress on its serve reception, both in practice and in games. Westwood showed some signs of life late in the second set after taking advantage of some short serves and missed opportunities by the Gremlins. However, it wasn’t enough of a dent to capture a set.

“They are getting there,” Braga said. “When they get to the ball, they hustle and make it a more exciting game for people to watch. We just need to work on the serving and receiving.”

A key for the Gremlins was Daityn Markham’s 11-point run while she served in the second set that led Houghton to winning that set.

Christianson felt that Markham’s serve was difficult for the Patriots to pick up.

“She made a great run,” Christianson said. “She was putting a little pressure on them. They were struggling with some of the serves that she had.”

The Gremlins’ height in the front row, anchored by Deja Brule, already makes life difficult for many opponents as long as that group can remain intact.

“We’ve got some size and we’ve got some skill,” Christianson said. “I’ve got two kids that are 6-feet tall or 5-foot-9. In spite of all of that, it all comes down to how well we pass the first ball.”

Both teams play in The Rock Invitational at Gladstone on Saturday morning with Houghton as the defending champions.