RAPID RIVER - The battle for the Central U.P. Conference crown is really turning into a dogfight. Rapid River took a step Tuesday night to vie for their share of the pie.
The Rockets battled with Mid Peninsula through five hard-fought sets coming out on top 3-2 (25-22, 20-25, 12-25, 25-14, 15-11) before handling Big Bay de Noc 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-17.) Mid Peninsula also swept the Black Bears 3-0 (25-9, 25-18, 25-14.)
That moved Rapid River back into a four-way tie with Mid Peninsula, Bark River-Harris and Superior Central for the CUP lead.
Paul Gerard photo
Rapid River’s Averi Kanyuh sets the ball for a teammate during their game against Mid Pen Tuesday. The Rockets won 3-2.
All four teams have one game remaining though Rapid River and Bark River-Harris each play Skyline opponents Thursday while Mid Peninsula plays Superior Central.
Rapid River came out strong in the first set against Mid Pen and had everything gelling, but the Wolverines adapted quickly and took the next two sets. The teams were tied 9-9 in the fourth set before the Rockets took control.
Neena Brockway rose to the occasion and was a kill machine, racking up an incredible 20 net-front bullets. For the Wolverines, it was Krysta VanDamme doling out headaches to the Rockets. She had 8 kills against Rapid River and was a constant presence at net-front.
"It's difficult for us playing against Mid Pen because we can't make mistakes. We ended up making a lot of service receive errors," said Rapid River coach Lisa Kanyuh. "We hit out of bounds, our passing wasn't going well and they forced us outside. Then they have No. 24 (VanDamme) a gargantuan that does nothing but stand out there and block, block, block."
Averi Kanyuh's 9-0 service run got the Rockets a 24-13 lead in the fourth set and it was all over after that.
The Wolverines had an early 4-1 advantage in the decisive fifth set but that didn't last long as Rapid River battled back to even the score at 6-6. Mid Pen regrouped and pulled ahead 9-7 but after a Rockets time out Mia Hill came out to help put the Wolverines away with a 4-0 service run that put the Rockets in front for good.
"We had a couple breakdowns here and there on that (fourth set) Rapid River service run but most of the time I felt our communication was really up," said Mid Peninsula coach Traci Lyle. "We beat Rapid River last time in five sets and they won this won in five sets so I feel like we match up really well against them."
Kanyuh said the rivalry between the two schools brings out the best in both of them.
"Mid Pen always plays us tough. We played well against them in the first game, it was a nice easy win, very confident," she said. "But they have that rivalry, Mid Pen and Rapid. They step onto the court with us and they bring their A-game every time."
The Rockets had to go right back to work against Big Bay de Noc after gaining the victory over Mid Pen and although they got the sweep, it was anything but easy.
The Black Bears capitalized on Rockets errors in the first set while making plenty of their own. A 5-0 service run by Lois Ranguette midway through gave the Black Bears a 14-13 lead, but the Rockets woke up in time to claim the game.
In the third set, the Black Bears again had a lead midway through. On the strength of Rachel Leckson and Stephanie Hubbell's net-front play, Big Bay de Noc led 15-12 before it simply collapsed.
The Rockets closed out the game on a 12-0 service run by Josie Miller.
"Josie had some really good serves," said Kanyuh. "I think Big Bay just got down on themselves and kind of took themselves out of it, but Josie did a really good job serving."
Big Bay de Noc coach Gail DeMars said she's seen this before from her team.
"It's just been the course all year long," she said. "We started off tough against Rapid, and we started tough against Mid Pen too, but we got into a little trouble."
Rapid RIver's jayvees won both games in the triangular match as well beating Mid Peninsula 25-15, 25-20 and edging red-hot Big Bay de Noc 19-25, 25-21, 15-8.
On Thursday, Big Bay de Noc travels to Manistique, Mid Peninsula hosts Superior Central and Rapid River travels to North Central.
Big Bay de Noc: Hubble (2 kills); Ranguette (2 digs, 2 aces); Leckson (8 kills, 1 block, 1 ace, 15 assists); Cayemberg (3 kills, 2 aces); Sundling (3 aces, 5 kills.)
Mid Peninsula: Nummilien (9 aces, 5 kills, 26 digs); Shope (1 ace, 4 kills, 2 blocks, 22 digs); Hadel (5 digs); Branstrom (7 kills, 2 blocks, 1 assist); Carlson (2 digs); Ledgerwood (1 dig); Westlund (7 aces, 1 kill, 11 assists, 17 digs); Hansen (3 digs); Kayser (2 aces, 5 kills, 12 assists, 23 digs); Lancour (1 ace, 3 kills, 16 digs); VanDamme (5 aces, 18 kills, 3 blocks, 21 digs, 1 assist.)
Rapid River: Stropich (9 kills, 1 block); Roberts (1 assist, 1 dig, 2 blocks); Hill (1 dig, 3 aces); Micheau (7 digs, 2 kills 12 assists 1 ace); Hanna Kanyuh (9 kills, 2 aces, 16 digs); Averi Kanyuh (11 kills, 17 digs, 19 assists, 10 aces); Miller (4 aces); Brockway (20 kills, 1 assist, 9 aces, 12 digs); Stenlund (2 kills, 2 aces, 25 digs); Kerstner (11 kills, 8 digs, 7 blocks.)