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Emeralds flex muscle in sweep over Gwinn

Austin Hemmingson | Daily Press Manistique’s Lenna Smith (5) finishes a kill over Gwinn’s Halle Beauchamp (16) and Megan Ruokolainen (7) during Tuesday’s match at Manistique.

MANISTIQUE — The Manistique Emeralds continue to show their dominance.

Facing a good Gwinn team for the second time this year, the Emeralds controlled most of the match to complete a 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-22) volleyball sweep here Tuesday.

Trailing 9-8 in the opening set, Manistique’s Jeanni Chartier served three consecutive aces for a three-point cushion. Gwinn stayed within striking distance until Brooke Richey went on an eight-point service run to give the Emeralds a 24-13 lead, and they finished it off two points later.

“Overall, I think we played really well,” Emeralds’ coach Amy Nixon said.

“We served aggressively, which I think helped take the wind out of their system a little bit, and then allowed us to set up our offense, which is what we do best when we’re hitting the ball well.”

The Emeralds (26-2-3) built a 10-3 lead in the second set before Gwinn coach Toni Roberts called a timeout to stop the bleeding.

Manistique’s lead grew to 19-9 before Gwinn’s Emily Mannor went on a five-point run to pull within 19-14. Manistique’s Emilee McDaniel finished the run with a tip-kill, and the Emeralds scored five of the final eight points to finish the set.

Roberts was disappointed with her team’s effort.

“I’m not taking anything away from Manistique. They’re an excellent team, but my team did not show up tonight,” Roberts said. “We could not put a ball down offensively, we didn’t move our feet on defense and we missed eight serves, which is highly out of character for us. It just wasn’t our night. We did not play tonight.”

The Modeltowners (18-11-2) offered more resistance in third set, taking a 12-11 lead after an ace by Emily Curtice. With the score tied at 15, Megan Ruokolainen went on a four-point run to give Gwinn a 19-15 lead.

Nixon called timeout to regroup, and the Emeralds responded. After they trimmed their deficit to 19-18, Erin LaBar served three straight aces to go up 21-19. Gwinn pulled within 23-22 after an Emeralds’ service error, but Lenna Smith and Kayla Muth combined for a huge block to give possession back to Manistique and Smith finished the match with an ace.

“The bumpiness in the the third set came from struggling to pass a little bit, but we refocused after a timeout and I think that got us re-situated a little bit,” Nixon said. “I think that helped keep us in that game, and we finished it out.”

In what could be a preview of a Division 3 district final, the Emeralds beat the Modeltowners for the second time this season after winning in four sets at Gwinn Sept. 17.

“I think it helps us a lot (in terms of confidence),” Nixon said. “They’re still competitive, and when districts come anything can happen, but I feel like that it definitely helps us moving into the postseason, knowing that we can beat them when we play our best.”

Roberts noted the potential of a district final preview might have sparked her team to put up more of a fight in the final set.

“They didn’t want to go out losing by 10 points or eight points like they did in the first two sets,” she said. “Especially because we’re hoping to make it to district finals and we’re assuming Manistique will also, so we couldn’t end the night with that kind of a loss. They fired up and started to get their feet moving, but it was just a little too late.”

Gwinn won the jayvee match 2-1.

The Emeralds visit Rudyard for a triangular with Pickford Tuesday, while Gwinn hosts Iron Mountain.

Gwinn

Delmont (13 assists, nine digs); Ruokolainen (three kills, two aces, seven digs); Curtice (two kills, 12 digs); Hoevker (three aces, five digs); Taylor (five kills, five digs); Beauchamp (five kills); Miilu (five digs).

Manistique

Smith (11 digs, nine kills, three aces, two blocks); LaBar (three aces, 24 assists); Chartier (three aces, six kills, one block); McDaniel (10 kills, one block); Zellar (11 digs); Muth (four blocks).

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