Copper Kings party at Gremlin Invite

HOUGHTON – The Calumet Copper Kings have had nearly unblemished volleyball success in the Upper Peninsula this season. Saturday at the Gremlin Invitational, Calumet still found lots of things to celebrate.

First, senior middle hitter Alisa Storm’s 17th birthday. Second, coach Lisa Twardzik’s 500th career victory. Third, the tournament championship, by a 2-0 (25-13, 25-23) score over their hosts and rivals Houghton.

“Most of it was just working together, staying positive through the whole thing and keeping our energy up,” Storm said.

Storm had six kills in the final, making her just part of a diverse and potent offense. Pam Torola had 10 against Houghton, Carissa Pavolich seven and Lexie Rowe six.

However, the lanky Storm totaled 29 kills for the day, many of them coming off quick middle attacks in which she reached uncommon height to pound the ball practically straight down.

“The ones are probably one of my favorite hits, because you can just take it right out of (the setter’s) hands and hammer it down,” Storm said.

The Kings worked Rowe gradually back into the lineup after missing two weeks due to an ankle injury, playing her only in the three afternoon knockout round matches, in which she had 21 kills in six sets.

The first of those knockout round matches was a milestone win for Twardzik, as the 2-0 win over Lake Linden-Hubbell marked her 500th career victory.

“It is a great accomplishment for this program, which I get to be a part of,” Twardzik said. “But there are so many instrumental in that achievement.”

In the final, Calumet busted the first set open with six straight points from Morgan Peters’ serve for a 17-10 lead. Five more, including an ace, from Catherine Frantti made it more than enough at 23-12.

The second was much tighter, with Houghton leading much of the way and the set tied as late as 23-23. The tiebreaking point came on a kill from Torola, putting the ball in Frantti’s hands for an ace on match point.

“At the end of the match, we didn’t pass serve,” Houghton coach John Christianson said, noting that in timeouts after Calumet’s 22nd and 24th points, he had a play called that never got run for lack of an establishing pass.

Though Houghton had success on the block, in particular two consecutive loud rejections of equally thunderous attacks by Rowe, the Gremlins had much more success on the outside than in the middle.

“Except for one time, we were late on Storm every time,” Christianson said.

Emma Huhta led Houghton with five kills in the final. Sydney Dillinger had four blocks, with Kenna Farrey and Elisa Jurmu posting two apiece. Miranda Hillstrom had a team-best eight digs.

Libero Megan Yeo was Calumet’s dig leader in the final, with 16. Terilynne Budreau had 22 assists.

Houghton and Calumet earned the top two seeds in the gold bracket by winning all six of their sets in pool play. Hancock won five of six for the third seed.

Houghton swept through Ishpeming in its quarterfinal, while Hancock dispatched No. 6 West Iron County 2-0.

Hancock gave Calumet a challenge in the semifinals, but ended up falling by an identical 25-13, 25-23 score as the final.

Taylor Mattson and Amanda Manninen had 27 kills apiece on the day for Hancock, while Nicole Anderson had team highs of 12 aces and 59 assists. Jen Hannon and Shannon Anderson contributed 35 and 34 digs, respectively, while Claire Meyer had three solo blocks and five block assists.

Houghton knocked out Marquette in the other semi.

For the Lakes, who split their six sets in pool play before encountering Calumet in the quarters, Ciara Larson had a team-high 25 kills and 38 digs.

L’Anse, Baraga, Chassell and Dollar Bay also participated, making up the field in the consolation bracket. L’Anse defeated Chassell in the consolation final.

There’ll be a rematch of the championship on the same floor Tuesday night as Calumet visits Houghton in WestPAC play.