Huhta, Panthers come through at critical moment

CHASSELL – Maddy Huhta of Chassell came up big in the clutch in the fifth and deciding set against Lake Linden-Hubbell Tuesday night and helped her team to a big volleyball victory.

Huhta, a 5-foot-11 senior, accounted for the last three points of the match as CHS stunned LL-H for the second time this season.

“I told the girls that they (Lakes) had defeated Houghton twice this season … and that we could beat them twice in a season,” winning coach Gael Filpus said afterward. “We’ve never done that before, it feels pretty good.”

The Panthers took the first two sets of the Mountain Lakes Conference match by scores of 25-22 and 25-21.

But the Lakes roared back behind the strong serving of senior Ciara Larson and overall game of sophomore Carli Ongie to score 25-21 and 25-16 wins to force a fifth and deciding game.

“Chassell had us on our heels at the beginning,” LL-H coach Karen Keranen said. “It was a serve and receive game all night and Ciara (Larson) finally got us going.”

The two rivals battled on even terms in the fifth set. The Lakes took a 15-14 lead before Huhta came up with a key block and two kills to settle the issue before a large crowd at Ed Helakoski Memorial Gym.

Filpus said she gave Huhta a little pep talk before the final set.

“She was playing a little timid and shy,” the Panthers coach said. “I just told her, ‘Maddy, you’re much stronger than anyone out there and I know you can do it.’ She was on fire in the final game, but it was a total team effort.”

Keranen said meetings with the Panthers are always intense.

“We have a good rivalry with Chassell, it’s highly competitive,” she said. “We both hustled very hard, it just came down to the last game.”

In beating the Lakes twice, Chassell put itself in good position for a top finish in the league.

“Right now, we’re 4-1 in the league with three left,” Filpus. “If we win the next three, we’ll be in good shape to win the league.”

Annie Ruohonen was again the leader for the winners with seven aces, seven blocks and 12 kills.

“Annie is our main server and when she’s going good, we’re usually in pretty good shape,” Filpus noted.

Kirsten Daavettila added five assists, four digs and three kills for the Panthers; Shelby Seppanen was good for nine assists and eight kills; Macy Holombo had 12 digs; Bernie Neira contributed two aces, four assists and four kills; and Huhta chipped in three blocks and eight kills.

Larson had a huge game for the Lakes with 25 kills, 24 digs and eight aces. Ongie added 20 assists, 15 digs and six kills, Sarah Audette came up with 16 kills and 14 assists, and Erin Gast produced a game-best 30 digs.

Chassell goes to Ontonagon next Tuesday in another league match.