Calumet claims WestPAC

HOUGHTON – The Houghton Gremlins tried to bring a blackout, but the Calumet Copper Kings blue them away Tuesday.

Calumet controlled the opening and the endgame, defeating Houghton 3-1 (25-12, 25-23, 18-25, 25-16) to clinch the WestPAC championship.

“It’s huge,” Calumet libero Megan Yeo said. “We’re doing good, but there’s still room for improvement. We’ve got to keep pushing.”

Always a tough trip in the WestPAC, Houghton tried to up the intensity by getting its fans (and coach John Christianson in the full Johnny Cash ensemble) to wear black, but Calumet short-circuited the effort by racing out to an 11-4 lead.

It grew to 22-9 after Catherine Frantti served three aces in a four-ball span.

Houghton scored just twice on its own serve in the whole set.

“In the first set, there was no moving, no talking. We were just there,” Christianson said.

Calumet continued the onslaught in the second, leading 6-1 after Frantti served an ace, followed by three straight serves the Gremlins couldn’t get a decent pass from. Another surge pushed the lead to 20-13, but Houghton finally found its bearings to avoid a blowout.

A run of five served by Kenna Farrey cut the gap to three, followed by four straight on the next rotation, served by Annika Wheeler to make it a one-point game.

The teams exchanged service errors before Carissa Pavolich’s kill ended the set and put Calumet up 2-0.

Pavolich had a huge game, posting 16 kills, and at least three in every set. The junior has seen increased playing time since the loss of Ellen Twardzik to a knee injury and rose to the challenge Tuesday.

“She’s like our little secret weapon,” Calumet setter Terilynne Budreau said.

“She has a great vertical and unbelievable hangtime, so she poses a lot of difficulty to the blockers,” Calumet coach Lisa Twardzik said.

Houghton’s rally spilled over into the third set, as the Gremlins went on runs of five and four on their first two rotations for a 9-2 lead.

Calumet closed to within a point at 12-11, but a pair of four-pointers helped Houghton jump ahead 22-15. The Kings only got to 18 before Elisa Jurmu finished it off with a kill.

Houghton had a 6-2 lead in the fourth when Calumet reasserted itself forcefully. With Budreau serving, Lexie Rowe and Pavolich had two kills apiece, Budreau added an ace and Houghton errors mixed in made it 11 straight points and a 13-6 lead.

“Fourth set, we got stuck in one bad rotation and we could not buy a pass,” Christianson said.

Calumet cruised in from there, as Houghton couldn’t string more than two points together, and Pam Torola hit the conference-winning kill off the block on match point.

“It’s always fun to please our fans and let them know when they have our backs, we have theirs also,” Budreau said.

She had 39 assists conducting the Calumet offense, which got 10 kills from Rowe and nine from Loretta Anderson.

Yeo had 24 digs and Torola 22, while Frantti had seven of Calumet’s 11 aces.

For Houghton, Wheeler had a team-best 10 kills, with Sydney Dillinger adding six and Jurmu five. Farrey posted 20 assists.

Defensively, Kayla Jacobson had 16 digs, Jurmu 13 and Dillinger 12.

For the first time in several years, there will not be a postseason meeting between the two, as Houghton is in Class B this season.

“Now, our total focus for right now is the Copper Spike. We have to go over to Hancock Thursday and defend the Copper Spike,” Christianson said.

Calumet is in action as well Thursday, at Lake Linden-Hubbell.