STEPHENSON - The championship scream of Eagles drowned out a large and loud Manistique student section at the Stephenson gym Thursday.
Stephenson celebrated its first Class C district volleyball title in 11 years with a grinding 3-1 1(5-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-19) triumph.
"We worked so hard for this and talked about it all year," said middle blocker Lexi Johnson as her voice broke with emotion. "We knew if we worked hard we could do it and we did what we came here to do."
Tom Kaeser | Menominee EagleHerald
Manistique’s Cayla Strasser bumps the ball back over the net as teammate Monica Giles (13) looks on during the Class C district championship at Stephenson Thursday night. The Eagles won 3-1.
Tom Kaeser | Menominee EagleHerald
Manistique students taunt Stephenson during player introductions before a Class C district volleyball match at Stephenson Thursday night.
Manistique was aiming for its first district title in school history, and with the Emeralds fans roaring from the bleachers, they controlled the first game. A Roseanne Robinson ace and a Maggie Morrison block helped spur the Emeralds to a 9-3 lead.
The Eagles cut the margin to 18-14, but Morrison slammed home an ace and Monica Giles sealed the game with a spike.
Manistique had all the momentum and an 11-8 lead in the second game when the Eagles turned up their championship fervor and emotion.
Allison Duprey stung the Emeralds with an ace and Johnson added a tip block during a 6-1 run. With the score knotted at 15, Stephenson made a crucial 7-2 run. A Johnson spike and a sideout evened the match.
"Getting the win in the second game was crucial," coach Craig Hartges said. "I brought Bret DeMille in and she played very well. She's usually an 81 percent server and she was 12 of 12 tonight."
The Emeralds held a 15-10 lead in the crucial third game, snatching back the momentum by wiping out an early 4-0 deficit with a 9-1 surge. Morrison hit a trickler over the net for an ace. But the Eagles again turned up their championship intensity.
Turcotte blistered a net-skimmer for an ace, Demille fired across an ace that landed just inside the back line and Johnson smashed back-to-back spikes to even the game.
Johnson took the game over with a spike a block and a soft lob for a point to spark Stephenson to a 19-15 lead and the Emeralds never recovered.
"I was a little nervous (about the 15-10 deficit) but we pulled together and worked hard and earned it," Johnson said. "My teammates gave me a lot of good passes and God gave us the strength to pull through."
Manistique started strong again in the fourth game, bolting out to an 8-4 lead.
A Johnson spike and a point from Johnson on a disputed line called evened the game at 8-8. After the Emeralds edged back out to a 10-8 lead, the Eagles all but clinched the crown with a 10-point run.
"I said listen to their crowd now," said Hartges. "You couldn't hear a thing."
Autumn Martin scorched a pair of aces to touch off the run. An Allison Duprey ace pushed the lead to 20-12 and the Eagles' student section, buoyed by members of the football team, began a championship chant.
"This is good for the girls," said Hartges. "They've worked hard for this."
Johnson turned in a career effort with 17 kills, six blocks, 17 digs, an ace, and was 19-of-20 serving.
"I told her she picked a heck of a night to play her best volleyball of the year," said Hartges.
Johnson was also an emotional sparkplug throughout the match, firing the Eagles up when they made a run and calming them down when the Emeralds responded.
Turcotte was big on the front line with 11 kills, three blocks, two digs, four aces, and was 13-of-14 serving.
The Eagles will play either Ironwood or West Iron County Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the regional semifinals at Norway.