By BURT ANGELI
CRYSTAL FALLS - Forest Park may be on its way to another Skyline Conference championship but Rapid River came away encouraged from Monday's volleyball match.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
Forest Park’s Samantha Nylund (3) attempts to tip the ball past Rapid River’s JoEllen Roberts (2) and Kristy Kerstner (12) during Monday’s Skyline Conference match. Trojans’ Mindy DeNell (7), Maria Stankewicz (6) and Lexi Gussert (9) watch the play.
The perennial Skyline powerhouse, with Lexi Gussert slamming home 17 kills, downed the Rockets 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-15).
"Rapid River has a good team," Forest Park Coach Kim Bjork said. "They are strong servers and attack the ball well."
Rapid River Coach Lisa Kanyuh was pleased to see her team show up to play.
"Usually when we come here we're so intimidated by Crystal Falls' reputation we still stay in Sagola," Kanyuh said. "We never show up on the court. Today they came in and fought really hard."
With three Division 1 college basketball coaches in the stands, Gussert demonstrated her leaping ability and agility with her kills, 18 digs, 8 ace serves and 2 blocks.
Kanyuh thought her Rockets held up well against Gussert, an all-state basketball player.
"I think the key was we were shutting down Gussie in the middle," Kanyuh said. "We had a lot of blocks on her and just giving them a game for once."
The Rockets wanted to put three blockers on a Gussert attack.
"They run her along the whole front row and all of the blockers have to be prepared to follow her, especially the middle," Kanyuh said. "We'll let the other girls take a swing out there because they're not as effective."
One of Gussert's eight ace serves closed out the first set as the Trojans rolled 6-1 down the stretch.
In the second set, Rapid River rallied from a 20-14 deficit to knot the score at 23-23 following an ace serve from Hannah Kanyuh. A serving error and Gussert spike extended the lead to 2-0.
"We struggled with our serving and serve receive in the second set," Bjork said.
Forest Park powered to a 12-3 lead in the third set before Rapid River got going. The Rockets came back to 16-12.
"Our serving was good, our defense was excellent and we just kept running the ball," Kanyuh said after the Rockets' second Skyline loss. "I'm really happy with the way they played.
"We fought hard there in the third game. Maybe it will be a different story, who knows, when they come to our place (on Oct. 11)."
Neena Brockway (5 kills, 7 blocks), Kristy Kerstner (10 blocks) and Averi Kanyuh (24 assists) paced the Rockets, who host North Dickinson on Thursday.
"Our girls did a nice job covering the floor overall," Bjork said. "We had a strong performance in the first and third sets.
"We are going to drill hard the rest of this week. We need to be more consistent in every aspect of the game."
Trojans' Mindy DeNell and Gina Graff tallied 20 and 19 digs, respectively. Maria Stankewicz registered 27 assists.
Forest Park (18-3-3 overall, 6-0 Skyline) visits West Iron County on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Forest Park recovered from a first-set loss to beat Rapid River 2-1 in the junior varsity match.
Forest Park summary follows:
Lexi Gussert - 17 kills, 8 aces, 18 digs, 2 blocks; Sam Nylund - 8 kills, 3 digs; Gina Graff - 19 digs, 1 assist; Maria Stankewicz - 1 kill, 2 aces, 6 digs, 27 assists; Abby Sommers - 2 digs; Mindy DeNell - 3 kills, 20 digs, 1 assist, 1 block; Mary Grandahl - 1 kill; Hannah Marinoff - 4 digs; Michaela Steiro - 1 block.