By Burt Angeli
Iron Mountain Daily News
IRON MOUNTAIN - League-leading Iron Mountain repulsed a Mid-Peninsula Conference volleyball challenge from Manistique on Thursday.
The Mountaineers, in a hard-fought serving display, outlasted the Emeralds 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 26-24, 25-21).
Iron Mountain (8-1) handed Manistique its fourth MPC setback. The Mountaineers travel to second-place Gwinn (2 losses) on Tuesday.
"It's going to be tough all the way through," Mountaineer coach Jeanne Newberry said. "This conference is going right down to the wire."
MANISTIQUE - Shanel Bosanic (12 digs); Maryse Hinkson (31 assists, 4 aces); Raeann Robinson (4 kills, 22 digs, 3 aces); Kelsy Gonyea (6 kills, 10 digs, 3 aces); Monica Giles (17 kills, 12 digs, 5 aces); Cayla Strasser (4 kills, 4 aces); Maggie Morrison (1 kill, 26 digs, 10 aces).
IRON MOUNTAIN - Abby Gerhard (9 digs, 11 kills, 3 aces); Alena Herman (4 digs, 4 aces); Katelynn Johnson (14 digs, 22 assists, 6 kills); Sarah Girard (10 digs, 17 kills); Gianna Hill (2 digs, 1 assist, 3 kills, 6 aces) Kari Sanford (3 digs, 2 assists, 4 kills) Maria Pirkola - 9 digs, 8 kills, 5 aces)
Iron Mountain visits Ishpeming and Westwood to close out the regular season.
"That Iron Mountain-Gwinn match should decide the conference," said Manistique coach and Kingsford grad Amy (Senger) Nixon, whose Emeralds host Norway on Thursday.
The Emeralds won the ace battle (25-17) with the Mountaineers but lost on the scoreboard.
"It was a good serving match," said Newberry, figuring the teams for hitting over 90 percent of their serves. "We were equal in the serve receive department. We need to work a little harder."
Gianna Hill led the Mountaineers with six aces while Maria Pirkola chipped in five and sophomore Alena Herman had four. Manistique's Maggie Morrison may have set a school record with 10 aces in the match.
"I felt the whole match was serve and serve receive for both teams." Nixon said. "We have served well but our serve receive has been a little bit of a struggle lately. We really need to work that out before the end of the season."
In the first set, four straight Hill aces triggered the Mountaineers to a 14-6 advantage. The Emeralds rallied to deadlock the set at 21 after a Morrison ace.
The Mountaineers snapped a 23-23 draw, taking the set with an Abby Gerhard spike and Maria Pirkola ace.
In a second set with 11 ties including 23-23, Manistique won out after a couple Iron Mountain miscues.
"I have to compliment Manistique," Newberry said. "We were going to have to power the ball to the floor. That's a good defensive team and they're going to pick up tips.
"They're very quick and very disciplined in the middle of the floor.
We had to pound the ball quickly. If we tried to place it we weren't going to do it. They actually made us swing harder after losing the second one."
Iron Mountain, which launched the third set with a 5-0 lead, settled things after a Manistique serving error and one of Sarah Girard's team-high 17 kills.
Manistique erased a six-point deficit to lead 19-18 in the fourth set. Iron Mountain responded with four straight points including a pair of aces from Herman.
Monica Giles brought the Emeralds back to 22-21 with one of her 17 kills and a serving ace.
"Giles is a very smart player," Newberry said. "She did a good job on hitting both angles."
Mountaineers clinched the victory with an Emerald miscue and kills from Pirkola and Gerhard.
"We came out (in the first set) a little bit slower than I would have liked," Nixon said. "But we battled right back. We came out stronger (in the second set) and picked our level of play up a little bit better.
"We battled the entire match back and forth. We never gave up and I'm really proud of my team."
Manistique's Maryse Hinkson produced 31 assists while Morrison and Raeanne Robinson combined for 48 digs. Iron Mountain collected 44 kills - Girard, 14; Gerhard 11, and Pirkola, 7.
Newberry also cited Kari Sanford play on the front row.
"Tonight she was very important," she said.
Both teams wore pink uniforms for the third annual Volley For The Cure, a tribute to women battling breast cancer.
Iron Mountain's junior varsity defeated Manistique 25-14, 25-11, 25-23.