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Emeralds claim district volleyball title with 4-set win at Bark River-Harris

The Manistique team hoists the MHSAA Division 3 high school volleyball district championship trophy after defeating Bark River-Harris on Friday night in Harris. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Todd Rose)

HARRIS — The Manistique High School volleyball team rallied from losing the first set Friday night to defeat Bark River-Harris in four sets, 19-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-19, and win an MHSAA Division 3 district championship in Harris.

“I think we just had to remind them of the style of play that works best for us,” Emeralds’ coach Amy Nixon said about regrouping after dropping the opening set. “As soon as we got back to what we do well, it started coming together for us.”

Set 1 remained close until a short run from Bark River led by Ally Richer put the Broncos ahead 18-16. While Manistique was able to nab a few more points, two short runs from Bark River ended the set in the Broncos’ favor.

In the second set, the story was similar, with the Emeralds and Broncos trading points for a long time. With a two-point advantage, 18-16, Manistique’s Emma Jones — who led the Emeralds in assists with 28 — helmed her team on a five-point run to extend their lead. An ace from Kayla Muth sealed the set for the Emeralds.

The seesaw battle continued in the third set until another Manistique run, this one for six points led by Brooke Richey, made it 21-11. Bark River put together several short runs down the stretch but couldn’t capitalize.

Manistique grabbed the lead right away in the deciding fourth set with a kill from freshman Ella Schuetter. Though BR-H gained some momentum in the late stages of the set, the Emeralds never looked back. It was Schuetter making the final kill on a spike to win the district championship for Manistique.

Although she led her team with 18 kills and five blocks, Schuetter credited her teammates.

“It’s definitely the team,” Schuetter said. “The back row was really strong tonight, and our setting was great. Everything just flowed really well, and I’m super happy with how we played.”

Just behind Schuetter in kills was Muth with 15. She, too, made several blocks at the net.

“The game is won and lost at the net,” Nixon said. “We’ve been working on our offense all season long. When that’s working, they’re not stopping us.”

Coming off of a record-breaking performance in the district tourney-opening match against Norway was Madison Zellar. In that Monday match, Zellar set a school record for aces with 14. The Emeralds’ libero continued her aggressive play Friday, leading the team in digs with 18.

The Emeralds advance to host Charlevoix at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Division 3 regionals.

The other regional semifinal features Negaunee facing Calumet at Westwood High School at 7:30 p.m. that same day.

Westwood also hosts the lone Division 4 regional semifinal at 6 p.m. between Mid Peninsula and Carney-Nadeau at 6 p.m. Tuesday as Chassell received a bye after no district tournament was held in the Gogebic-Ontonagon County area, apparently due to coronavirus concerns.

“I’m just really proud of the girls,” Nixon said of her team’s district run. “We have two (players) at home tonight who are out on quarantine, so I’m happy we were able to give them a representation of our team.”

The game plan for Bark River-Harris, according to head coach Jennifer Ives, was to attack.

“We executed that flawlessly (in) game one,” she said. “We were on our game. We were attacking, and ultimately, we won the set.

“We knew if we let them attack and we got on the defensive, their middle hitter would eat us up.”

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