CARNEY - The Stephenson Eagles soared out of the gate and never looked back as they swept Carney-Nadeau 3-0 (25-8, 25-4, 25-16) to win the Class D district championship.
The Eagles had their half of the packed gym cheering early, as they jumped out to an 11-4 lead. Carney cut the lead to five (12-7) but that was as close as they would get. Stephenson used a five-point service run by Brett Demille to take a 18-7 lead, before Kelsey Johnson rattled off a six-point service run to finish the game.
Stephenson head coach Sara Johnson said the game-plan was simple and her team never strayed from it.
Paul Gerard photo
Carney-Nadeau’s Allison Theoret bumps the ball as teammate Janel Dani (20)?looks on during their Class D?District final against Stephenson, Thursday night at Carney.
"We came in knowing that what we needed to do," Johnson said. "We needed to come in strong, no letdowns, and I felt like the girls did that, we played our game. We changed our lineup a little bit but not much and I just told them we need solid passing and good serves and I thought that's what we did and then the hitting comes and it was there."
The hitting clicked even better in the second set as the Eagles (28-6-1) got looks at the net all game and jumped out to a commanding 6-0 lead. Stephenson didn't let off the gas as they only allowed four points that set, capped off by Lexi Rasner's nine-point service run.
Wolves head coach Steve Kedsch said his team had jitters during the first two sets and weren't playing up to their capabilities.
"The free balls that we were passing over, we were passing out of bounds," Kedsch said. "We were hitting balls way out of bounds, at one point we had missed three serves in a row in that second set. I think that was just kind of nerves."
The Eagles defense never allowed Carney (9-13) to score more than three straight points and Johnson attributes the success to her seniors poise.
"My seniors stayed calm," she said. "You get to this part of the season and they can start to get a little bit jittery and you know that last game is hovering over you and they just stayed steady and that's what we need."
Senior Lexi Johnson was a steady force in the middle for the Eagles all night, racking up 11 kills, while fellow senior Ally Duprey chipped in four kills. Kedsch said the Eagles height made it a challenge for his team defensively.
"They have an assortment of good hitters," he said. "If we can't get an attack on them they just keep pounding it back on us and eventually they win that battle."
It was the last match for Carney-Nadeau seniors Morgan Eichhorn, Cassidy Parrett, Allison Theoret, Izabella Tancredi, Andrea Dani and Janel Dani.
Both Dani's were four year varsity players, while Theoret played varsity for three years. Kedsch had high praise for his group's defense and finish to the season.
"I'm very proud of the girls for getting to the district finals," he said. "With our numbers being low, to beat North Central who had a solid season this year, then we played Mid Peninsula, who was up for us when we played them and we were able to get through them. I was very proud with how we finished the year, we finished strong."
Stephenson goes on to face Munising in the regionals this Tuesday at Negaunee.
Stephenson: Lexi Johnson, 11 kills, two blocks; Brett Demille, nine digs; Karlina Johnson, five kills, Alley Duprey, four kills; Amelia Starynski, 11 assists; Lexi Rasner, 11 assists, three aces; Tiffany Wangerin, 11 digs
Carney-Nadeau: Janel Dani, six kills, 10 digs; Andrea Dani, nine assists, two digs; Izabella Tancredi, two kills, two digs; Allison Theoret, seven digs; Cassidy Parrett, three kills, two digs; Katie Sivula, eight digs; Morgan Eichhorn, eight digs.