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Despite what would appear to fans as a rough 3-1 loss to the Calumet Copper Kings on the volleyball court on Wednesday, the West Iron County Wykons coach Brenda Grubbs said the two and half hour trip north with her team was worth the effort, even with their mistakes.
“This is how you learn,” she said. “We grow when we play tough teams like Calumet.”
The Copper Kings won the match, 25-15, 29-9, 26-28 and 25-9.
Interestingly, both squads lost eight seniors to graduation last season, and both coaches were quick to admit that this would be a transition year for their respective squads.
To make matter worse for the Wykons, they had three of their starting seniors out of their lineup due to injuries.
In the first set, the Copper Kings took the lead and never looked back. Sophomore Elissa Djerf kicked things off with a four-point run which included an ace. She would lead the team with seven aces throughout the night.
The opener saw a lot of good volleys with well-placed balls on both sides of the net, but more often than not Calumet would take or keep possession of the ball because of their mistakes on the Wykons’ side of the net.
“We had a lot miscommunication errors,” said Grubbs. “With so many of my girls out, I’m having to put girls in who haven’t played much.”
She tried to slow the Copper Kings’ momentum down with a time out down 13-8, but it did little help. The best they could do was put together several runs of two before the Copper Kings hit that magic 25.
“The girls hustled well tonight and that’s how we practice,” said Copper Kings coach Matt Laho. “These girls do not want the ball to hit the floor and you saw some of that tonight. Also I was particularly proud of our senior starters and their play at the net.”
In the second set, Djerf kept the momentum going for the Copper Kings, getting them out to a 5-1 lead with her powerful jump serve. They moved the ball well setting up outside hitters such as Ellen Sturos for some big hits. Sturos finished the game with 11 kills.
The Copper Kings proved themselves on both sides of the net as junior Madison Peterlin and Jasmyn Mytty had several strong blocks throughout the game. On the offensive side, the powerful net play of Djerf and Sturos proved to be too strong for the younger Wykons as the Copper Kings cruised to the set victory.
While she and her girls may have been outmatched on the court, Grubbs did not like the spirit they were displaying. She huddled up with them after the second set.
“I told the girls to put a little passion into their play,” she stated. “I told them to become players who passed and moved. They looked so stiff out there those first two sets. Most of all, I told them to put a smile on their faces.”
Her pep talk worked as her team came out with a little more fire in their play. The Wykons open the set up with a 3-2 lead only to lose it, but to tie it at nine, thanks in part to a run of five put on by senior Courtney Reitmeyer. She had an ace in that series as well.
After the tie, the Copper Kings controlled the tempo of play. A big kill by Ava Anderson made the score 18-13. It was their biggest lead.
However, the Wykons battled back with aces recorded by Reitmeyer and Mya Grubbs. They took the lead at 23-21. The two teams would battle it back and forth with some great volleys tying it at 24, 25 and 26 before the Wykons closed it with two in a row for the win.
That third-game momentum didn’t continue into the fourth game, however. As they did in the first two games, the Copper Kings came out strong with a 7-1 lead. Their net game dominated as seniors Sydney Wickstrom and Sturos came up with some big kills.
They were no match for the Wykons’ defense as they appeared worn out. Calumet kept them on the defensive side of the ball, which made life difficult as the hosts cruised to the game and match victory.
The Copper Kings moved to 4-2 on the season.