Dream season ends

Munising spikers fall in Class D Semifinals

From left, with coach Ted Williams gesturing, Munising volleyball players Kelsea Ackerman, Marissa Ackerman and Keira Stampfly embrace after the Mustangs lost to Fowler in a Class D semifinal match at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 16, 2017. (James Andersen photo)

BATTLE CREEK — The Munising High School volleyball team’s first trip to Battle Creek proved to be a short but memorable one.

Sidney Horak recorded 12 kills, Marissa Snyder added 10 and Fowler swept the Mustangs in three sets during a Class D semifinal match on Thursday afternoon at Kellogg Arena.

Fowler won 25-21, 25-18, 25-11 and will play top-ranked Plymouth Christian in the Class D title game at 10 a.m. Saturday.

After traveling more than 400 miles to reach Battle Creek, the Mustangs traded points back and forth with the Eagles early in each set. But ultimately Fowler found an extra gear late in sets that the Mustangs couldn’t match.

Munising finished the match with only 21 kills and 17 attacking errors.

“My girls played hard and I’m proud of them. We had a great season, it was a great experience,” Munising coach Ted Williams said. “Only four teams got to come down here so I’m pretty happy for them.”

Munising, which finished its season at 27-7-4, led just twice the entire match, but one of those times was early in the first set as the Mustangs took advantage of several serving and attacking errors and solid play from senior Kianne Wendt to take a brief 10-7 lead after a five-point run.

Wendt, who was named Skyline Central Conference Player of the Year, led Munising with eight kills, while Daryn Johnson had five and Michaela Warner added four. Emily Contreras had 15 assists and Marissa Ackerman led Munising’s defense with 17 digs.

The first-set lead was short-lived, however, as Fowler rallied back to score nine consecutive points to take a 17-11 lead and seize momentum.

Munising briefly battled back to get within 18-14 not long after, but once again Fowler surged ahead and went on to win by four.

Fowler’s propensity for rallying late paid off again in the second set as the Eagles went on a 6-1 run to change expand a small 17-15 lead into a 23-16 bulge with Horak leading the way.

“We’ve been ranked since the end of September. We’ve been ranked sixth most of the season and the girls just keep bringing it every time we come to play,” Fowler coach Patty Feldpausch said. “I just knew they could do it today, but I also know that nerves can come and take over a match and it didn’t happen.”

Already up two sets, Fowler kept rolling in the final set, starting out with an 11-3 lead as the Mustangs struggled with serve reception and not being able to do much to slow down Fowler’s offense.

The Mustangs battled back to pull within 17-11 later in the set, but the Eagles kept building their lead, scoring the last eight points to end the match.

Despite the loss, the season proved to be a memorable one for the Mustangs and for Williams, who returned to the sidelines for the first time since 2005.

Williams said he realized during the summer that the Mustangs had the potential for a special season, and Munising overcame the usual trials and tribulations of a season to finish among the final four teams in Class D.

It marked the first time the school had ever won a regional title and even played in a state quarterfinal or semifinal match in volleyball.

Before Battle Creek, the Mustangs dropped just three sets in the postseason and avenged a tough regular-season-ending loss to Superior Central by beating the Cougars in the districts.

“I knew I had a special group at the beginning of the year. They’re so good kids. They’re tremendous athletes and they’re academically amazing as well,” Williams said. “I kept telling myself if I was going to come back and coach, I couldn’t find a better group of girls to do this with.”

James Andersen is the sports editor of the Alpena News.