Fast start propels Wykons past Westwood spikers

Westwood's Katie Wiljanen, left, and Aidan Reath clasp hands as they await a teammate's serve in a Class C volleyball regional semifinal match against West Iron County on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Avery Bundgaard)

GLADSTONE — West Iron County reaped the benefits of a fast start against Westwood in a Class C regional volleyball semifinal on Tuesday night.

The Wykons ended the Patriots’ season with a 25-13, 25-15, 25-23 victory at Gladstone High School.

Senior Megan Strom got the Wykons started with a 16-point service run and classmate Rachel Tefft collected three kills and a block during that run.

“Megan’s serving got us going,” said Tefft, who led the Wykons at the net with 11 kills and seven blocks. “Once we got the lead, it helped me relax. Taking the first set always helps. We also took the first set in both of our district matches and it gave us some momentum.”

The victory sends WIC to Thursday’s regional final against Calumet, a 3-0 winner over St. Ignace in Tuesday’s other match. Though initially scheduled back in Gladstone, there has been some discussion of moving the finale to L’Anse.

“This is the first time Megan started our serving,” WIC coach Brenda Grubbs said about Tuesday’s match. “She’s usually our sixth server, but tonight we decided to switch up our rotation.”

It just wasn’t to be for the Patriots, according to head coach Heather Salmi.

“We didn’t come out with the intensity that we had played with last week,” she said. “Parts of the evening it was like a completely different team playing. It just wasn’t our night.

“I’m really proud of all the girls who have worked so hard this season to bring the WIN trophy and the district trophy back to Westwood. I will miss not having the five seniors next year.”

As she has done most of the season, senior Elizabeth Farley led the Westwood offense with 13 kills while adding 12 digs, two blocks and an ace.

Teammate Aidan Reath added three kills and 15 digs, Katie Wiljanen three kills, Aliya Leach 15 digs and a service ace, Kaitlin Ackland 13 digs and an ace, Sarah Rautio seven assists and an ace and Alina Jones seven digs and two kills.

A kill by Jones got the Patriots on the board, but a sideout and a pair of kills helped West Iron extend its advantage to 20-2.

A seven-point run by Rautio helped Westwood trim its deficit to 20-9. The Patriots, however, were unable to get closer.

Westwood took a 4-1 lead in the second set, but a kill by senior Breanna Kemppainen trimmed West Iron’s deficit to 4-2.

West Iron took a 5-4 lead on another kill by Kemppainen, then the Patriots tied the score on a kill by Farley.

The Wykons regained the lead on a kill by Tefft, then took advantage of two hitting errors for an 8-5 cushion.

Westwood led for the last time in the second set at 10-9. The Wykons scored five straight points and didn’t give up the lead again.

In the third set, back-to-back kills by Farley enabled Westwood to tie the score 23-23. The Patriots fell behind on a hitting miscue and a kill to the left side by Tefft secured the decision.

West Iron held a 23-19 lead in the finale before Westwood began its last push.

Junior setter Riley Stine provided the Wykons with 53 assists and helped senior Victoria Maloney collect five kills.