GLADSTONE - It was in Gladstone's grasp Tuesday night as the Braves hosted Marquette in a Great Northern Conference match on the volleyball court. Then, it all slipped away as the experienced Redettes came out on top 3-2 (20-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-11, 15-13.)
It was a mistake-filled match for both teams but there was also plenty of talent on display. For Gladstone, to go five sets with Marquette was the mark of an improved team.
"I told the girls after the game to look back to the first month of the season until now," said Gladstone coach Liz Gendron. "This group has come a long way."
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Gladstone’s Callie Jensen runs to the sideline to save a ball headed out of bounds during the third set against Marquette Tuesday evening.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Gladstone's Callie Jensen sets the ball during her team's match against Marquette Tuesday night.
Marquette coach Sara Peura said her Redettes were a bit off tonight, but came through in the clutch.
"We had a lot more serving errors than we're used to," she said. "The first couple games we were playing kind of scared, kind of Jekyll and Hyde, but they really pulled it together in the last two."
Gladstone (5-22-1) came ready to play. Although a handful of mistakes were made in the first set, Marquette made more. There were serving errors by the Redettes (9-2, 7-1 GNC), six of them, and hitting errors as well.
Marquette - Liana Storm (16 digs); Hunter Viitala (12 kills, 4 aces); Addison Piotrowski (29 assists, 4 aces); Emily Boyle (10 kills).
Gladstone - Summer Demeuse (5 kills, 17 digs); Lexi Hongisto (14 kills, 3 aces, 8 digs, 4 blocks); Breanne Aird (7 digs); Mackenzie Gay (2 aces); Emily Dykowski (3 blocks); Jessica Beaudry (7 kills); Grace Zimmermann (15 digs); Callie Jensen (28 assists, 3 aces, 13 digs).
"We're serving decently aggressive, but we had a lot of errors overall as a team," said Peura. "Gladstone came to play and they put pressure on us."
Midway through the set, Summer Demeuse had a 6-0 service run to put Gladstone up 15-9 and Callie Jensen had two of her three aces earlier in the set.
The Braves nearly pulled off an impressive rally in a wild second set. Marquette began the game on a 5-0 run with Addison Piotrowski serving, but Gladstone answered right back with a 6-0 run of their own led by Demeuse's serve once again. The Redettes led 22-16 late but the Braves stormed back. WIth Marquette holding a 23-19 lead, Lexi Hongisto served up a 5-0 run to give Gladstone the 24-23 lead. Needing two points to close Marquette out however, the Redettes scored the final three points. On game point, Marquette sailed a ball over the net that the Braves thought was headed out of bounds, however the ball was ruled in bounds giving Marquette the victory.
Gladstone took the third set by the same 26-24 score. There were no big rallies in this set as the game was tied 8-8, 12-12. 16=16. 20-20 and 24-24 before Gladstone took the final two points, one via an ace by Breanne Aird.
As close as the fifth set score indicates, the Redettes controlled the final two sets. The Braves came out aggressive but the hitting and serving errors that plagued Marquette through the first two sets seemed to transfer over to Gladstone. Marquette led by as much as 20-10 in a lopsided second set that was never in question.
The Redettes, powered by Hunter Viitala's powerful swing and middle blocker Emily Boyle also took a commanding 14-8 lead in the fifth set. Gladstone admirably did not throw in the towel though and scored five consecutive points to make it interesting before Marquette hammered home the final point. Viitala racked up 12 kills while Boyle had 10.
"Hunter has a wicked swing when she's on," said Peura. "She's just learning where to approach from and she's getting better at that. She's definitely swinging hard and getting up there as much as she could. I'm proud of her."
Gendron said she instructed her team to limit Boyle as much as possible.
"We're not going to take away from their big middle blocker (Boyle), she's a great hitter, but we did get her to change her swing a couple times," she said. "We knew where their hitters were going and we just had to change direction. We tried it a couple times and it worked, we just kept forgetting what we had to do. That's just youth and inexperience."
Gladstone was led by Lexi Hongisto. The Braves sensational sophomore racked up 14 kills and four blocks.
"Lexi feels terrible (about hitting errors)," said Gendron. "She's trying to carry this team on her shoulders as our best hitter, but she has to understand that she is greatly improved and it will come.
"Nothing really means anything until we get to districts."