Full team effort

ISHPEMING – It took all nine players for Ishpeming to put together their best effort of the season in a high school volleyball sweep at home of Gwinn on Tuesday night.

Hematites coach Briana Bancroft substituted more freely than she has all season, something she said led to a 25-18, 25-18, 25-23 victory.

Bancroft said her team is beginning to develop the flow she’s been looking for during the first half of the season.

“Our top goal all season has been to achieve mental toughness,” Bancroft said. “We didn’t have a lot of it at the beginning of the season, but we’ve been working on and talking about it every single day, and it’s starting to click.

“It doesn’t always come through, but every girl had it tonight on the court, and every girl helped contribute toward a point.”

Sadie Stetson’s 22 assists and 12 digs led the way for Ishpeming in a night where they needed comeback streaks to start and finish.

The Modeltowners jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set before the home Hematites scored six straight points to get their first lead.

Gwinn head coach Toni Roberts said that the Modeltowners raced to the early lead, Ishpeming began to expose their coverage weaknesses along the sidelines.

“Ishpeming knew where we weren’t going to be covering at every right time and could pull us out of our locations,” Roberts said. “It became stronger for them as the sets went along. We didn’t take care of the ball in any aspect after the first few points, and (Ishpeming) did at every moment.”

Gwinn mishandled three deflections away from the net as the Hematites took the first set.

Neither team led by more than two points early in the second set until a sinking drive landed in front of a Gwinn player for a 19-16 Ishpeming lead.

That began a 7-2 Ishpeming run to end the set for a 2-0 lead.

The Modeltowners didn’t go quietly in the third set, however, as they once again built an early 5-0 lead and still held were ahead 18-16.

Bancroft said that Ishpeming wasn’t as aggressive at the net with the Modeltowners showing resilience.

“The two teams are very evenly matched, and when both teams are playing at their potential you see some players shine,” the Ishpeming coach said. “We needed to calm down and regroup, and we looked back at why we were so close to finishing out the (match) and how we got to the point on the night, and that motivated the girls to finish it.”

After Ishpeming responded with two quick points, a spike by Ishpeming’s Desiree Neveau put the Hematites up by three to energize the home crowd.

The Hematites resorted to more conservative play in the closing points, and an easy pass to Gwinn was mishandled by a pair of defenders and landed out of bounds to end the night.

Roberts said the ending symbolized the play of her team.

“We didn’t have much put together through any of the sets,” Roberts said. “We had zero communication all across the court. There was no drive.

“It was a team loss for sure and not any single individual. We didn’t have the excitement or the drive that a varsity team should have.”

Ishpeming improved to 6-6-3 overall, including tournament matches, and 2-3 in the Mid-Peninsula Conference. Gwinn dropped to 4-3 overall and 4-2 in the M-PC.

Ray Bressette can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. His email address is rbressette@miningjournal.net.