GLADSTONE - Gladstone had the Great Northern Conference volleyball match in its grasp before Marquette snatched it away Tuesday night on the Braves' court.
The experienced Redettes came out on top in five games, 20-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-11, 15-13.
It was a mistake-filled match for each team, but there was also plenty of talent on display. For Gladstone to go five sets with Marquette showed real improvement.
Marquette Senior High School players Angela Brown (10), Lindsey Couture (18), Addison Piotrowski (8) and Emily Boyle (19) celebrate after the Redettes recorded a kill during the second set Tuesday at Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Keith Shelton)
"I told the girls after the game to look back to the first month of the season until now," Gladstone coach Liz Gendron said. "This group has come a long way."
Marquette coach Sarah Peura said her Redettes were a bit off on Tuesday, but came through in the clutch.
"We had a lot more serving errors than we're used to," she said. "The first couple games we were playing kind of scared, kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde, but they really pulled it together in the last two."
Gladstone (5-22-1) came ready to play, and while making a handful of mistakes in the first set, Marquette made more. The Redettes (9-2, 7-1 GNC) committed six serving errors and some hitting errors as well.
"We're serving decently aggressive, but we had a lot of errors overall as a team," said Peura. "Gladstone came to play and they put pressure on us."
After the Braves' Callie Jensen made two of her three service aces, teammate Summer Demeuse had a six-point service run to put Gladstone up 15-9.
The Braves nearly pulled off an impressive rally in a wild second set. Marquette raced to a 5-0 lead with Addison Piotrowski serving, but Demeuse answered with another 6-0 run on her serve.
The Redettes led 22-16 before Gladstone stormed back on the strength of Lexi Hongisto's five-point service run to go up 24-23. Then Marquette closed it out with the final three points, the last on a hit the Braves let go but fell just inbounds.
Gladstone asserted itself with two points at the end of the third set, one on an ace by Breanne Aird, after numerous ties that included 20-20 and 24-24.
Despite the close score in the fifth set, the Redettes controlled the final two sets as hitting and serving errors plagued the Braves.
MSHS, led by Hunter Viitala's powerful swing and middle blocker Emily Boyle, led 14-8 lead in the final set before Gladstone made it close.
Viitala racked up 12 kills and Boyle 10, while Liana Storm made 16 digs and Viitala and Piotrowski had four aces each.
"Hunter has a wicked swing when she's on," Peura said. "She's just learning where to approach from and she's getting better at that. She's definitely swinging hard and getting up there as much as she could."
Gendron said she instructed her team to limit Boyle as much as possible.
"We're not going to take away from their big middle blocker (Boyle), she's a great hitter, but we did get her to change her swing a couple times," she said. "We knew where their hitters were going and we just had to change direction. We tried it a couple times and it worked, we just kept forgetting what we had to do. That's just youth and inexperience."
Gladstone was led by sophomore Lexi Hongisto with 14 kills and four blocks.
"Lexi feels terrible (about hitting errors)," said Gendron. "She's trying to carry this team on her shoulders as our best hitter, but she has to understand that she is greatly improved and it will come.
"Nothing really means anything until we get to districts."