Negaunee Miners volleyball team knocks off Gwinn in 4 sets for Division 3 district championship

Negaunee’s Natalie Bell, front right, gets a solo block on Gwinn’s Tianna Taylor, also at the net, in the first set of their MHSAA Division 3 district volleyball championship match held at the Modeltowners’ gym on Thursday. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

GWINN — It wasn’t an easy climb, but the Negaunee High School volleyball team got to hoist a trophy on Thursday night.

After having practices and matches come to a screeching halt two weeks ago, the Miners overcame those obstacles and took down Gwinn in four sets to win an MHSAA Division 3 district title at the Modeltowners gym. Set scores were 30-28, 25-15, 20-25, 25-22.

“We had to come ready,” Negaunee head coach Sarah MacDonald said. “We came in and we were like ‘Set 1’ and that was our goal first. We just kind of broke the game up like that.

“Then we had to, I guess, stay on the attack. Set 3, when we went down, it was because we stopped attacking and Gwinn started picking it up. It was a great game and a great effort by every single girl.”

Natalie Bell led the Miners with 14 kills and three aces, while Larissa Anderson had 18 assists. Bell also had six blocks as Sierra Hendrickson had 12 digs.

While the Miners celebrated on one end of the court, Modeltowners head coach Toni Roberts said that she felt her squad tensed up in the second set, and even though the Modeltowners fought back to win the third, they gave the Miners too many free points in the final set.

“Well, the first one, I think that we let that one go away from us,” she said. “We had a little bit of a lead going into the final few points there and we just couldn’t wrap it up. And I think that they got too tense in the second game because of that.

“So we just had to let it go, regroup and that’s exactly what they did in the third game was just regroup, relax and just play good volleyball. That’s kind of what we were missing in the first and second sets. We were getting a little too tense.

“In that last set, we let six serves go and only lost by three, so that hurts when you give them six points and you only lose by three.”

Tianna Taylor was Gwinn’s offensive leader with 20 kills, while Jordana Hardy and Tori Paquin each had three aces and Lena Pleaugh racked up 40 assists. Hardy also finished with 21 digs to lead the Modeltowners defensively.

The Miners gutted out a 30-28 win in the opening set and then took the second 25-15 before Gwinn started to catch fire.

After trading points with Negaunee for the first few minutes, the Modeltowners got back-to-back kills from Taylor to go up 11-8 and later, Gwinn pushed its lead to seven at 18-11 thanks to two aces by Paquin. The Miners fought back to pull within two points of the Modeltowners twice, but Gwinn prevailed 25-20.

Gwinn took that momentum into the fourth set and built up a 9-3 lead with the help of kills from Taylor and Halle Beauchamp. However, over the course of the set, the Miners slowly chipped away at the Modeltowners’ advantage.

Negaunee eventually took the lead at 20-19 on a block by Emilia Palomaki, but Gwinn fought back and the two teams started to trade points. Up by one at 23-22, the Miners closed out the set and the match with two straight kills from Bell.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.


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