Trojans, Gussert overcome Lakes

NEGAUNEE – If Michigan State University needs another volleyball player next fall, they should just give Lexi Gussert’s dorm room a call.

The Forest Park senior said Tuesday she’ll be officially announcing today that she’s going to be playing basketball and attending MSU next fall.

But her volleyball game is nothing to sneeze at after leading the Trojans to a 3-0 Class D regional victory over Lake Linden-Hubbell at Negaunee’s Lakeview Memorial Gym on Tuesday night. FP’s winning scores were 25-22, 25-21, 25-16.

Forest Park will vie for the regional championship back at Lakeview at 7 p.m. Thursday against Stephenson, a 3-1 winner over Munising in Tuesday’s late match.

Gussert recorded 19 kills, served two aces and made four digs while electrifying the crowd with big slams as she reached high above the net repeatedly Tuesday. Her numbers might’ve been even better, but several shots went flying out of bounds while the Lakes also managed a handful of successful blocks that at least kept the ball in play temporarily.

“She doesn’t really concentrate on volleyball,” said her coach, Kim Bjork. “So she doesn’t really work on it a whole lot. But she’s a smart player and, of course, has such athletic talent. She can really freelance.

“I’ve learned a few things myself about the game from her.”

Gussert wasn’t satisfied with her performance Tuesday.

“That’s about the most mistakes I’ve made this season,” she said. “But (fellow senior) Kendra Campbell played really well, so we were OK.”

Campbell added nine kills and two aces.

LL-H coach Karen Keranen knew the Lakes were in for a challenge.

“You can’t stop her, you can only hope to take away some of her opportunities,” Keranen said. “We did have a couple blocks, but we really had to take advantage when we had the chance for some bigger hits.”

Senior Ciara Larson was the only LL-H player credited with a block, though she and fellow senior Abby McConnon had their hands on several other Gussert smacks that kept the ball in play.

Larson also led her team with nine kills as McConnon had five. Senior Erin Gast had eight digs, some of them astonishing counterpoints to Gussert slams.

The Trojans didn’t get their first lead of the match until it was 18-17 in the first set when Gussert knocked the ball off a Lakes’ blocker out of bounds, and didn’t keep that lead for good until Gussert subsequently served four straight points off her jump serve.

However, it was Campbell that scored the final two points of the set on a crosscourt hit LL-H couldn’t reach and a big hit that the Lakes couldn’t make a quality dig on.

The Copper Country team again jumped out early in set number two before FP took its first lead at 10-9. Though the score was tied five times after that, the Lakes never retook the lead.

Forest Park ended it with four straight points, two on kills by Gussert, a kill by Campbell and an off-pace serve by Campbell that fell in front of LL’s back row.

The Trojans took control in the final set, going ahead for good at 4-3 and extending it before LL-H fought back to pull within 17-16. But senior libero Hannah Marinoff served out the final seven points to end the Lakes’ season at 11-7.

“Our serve receive let us down,” Keranen said.

“I think both teams were fighting a little bit of nerves,” Bjork added.