By RON DEUTER
IRON MOUNTAIN - Momentum in volleyball sometimes feels like a freight train.
Once it gets going, it can be hard to stop.
In the case of the Kingsford versus Iron Mountain match here Tuesday night, it was the Flivvers taking the last ride, outlasting the Mountaineers 3-2 (25-21, 24-26, 11-25, 25-19, 15-6) in a thrilling rivalry contest before a fired up Mountaineer gymnasium crowd.
"How many gray hairs do I have?" Flivvers coach Mandie Meyer joked after the match.
The Flivvers, led on the attack by Carlee Benzie (11 kills) and Margo Wittenbach (9 kills), withstood a stretch between sets three and four in which Iron Mountain outscored the Maize & Blue 30-8.
"Volleyball is such a game of momentum," Meyer said. "When it does flow to that one side and the team has the capability of grasping on to it and just taking control, it doesn't matter what the other team is doing. The team in control can just make runs."
After a tight first two sets, the Mountaineers, led in hitting by Maria Pirkola (11 kills), Sarah Girard (11 kills) and Abby Gerhard (7 kills), reeled off 14 straight points in set three to take what felt like a commanding 2-1 match lead.
Alena Herman was on the serve for the Mountaineers during the run.
"She just served consistent and strong," Mountaineers coach Jeanne Newberry said.
Iron Mountain continued to roll into the fourth set, opening a 15-8 lead. But a missed serve, a rip out of bounds and a hit into the net cracked the door for Kingsford.
Kills by Lillian Slajus and Andrea Roell helped close the gap, along with a few more Mountaineer errors, before Benzie hammered a spike to the floor in the Mountaineer back row to knot the set 19-19.
A well-timed setter dump by Brooke Sanford on the next play put the Flivvers in front, and Kingsford never trailed again in the match.
The Flivvers grabbed a quick 7-2 lead in the fifth set's race to 15 and closed it out with a double block from Lauren Smith and Slajus followed by tip kills from Wittenbach and Benzie.
"Their game tonight, they picked up the pace," Newberry said of the Mountaineers. "They did everything I asked. Just that darn tip. You're looking for the strong hit and out comes the tip."
The first set was tied 19-19 before a couple of hits from Smith helped put the Flivvers in the driver's seat. Smith finished with five kills in the match and added a couple of blocks.
"Lauren Smith played the most aggressive I've seen this season out of her," Meyer noted.
The Mountaineers led 17-12 in set two only to see Kingsford rally back and force extra points.
Sanford's other perfectly-placed setter dump of the match briefly had Kingsford in front 24-23, but an attack out of bounds on the next point followed by an ace from Gerhard, tilted things the Mountaineers' way.
Gerhard served up five aces for Iron Mountain in the match.
"Great defense on both sides," Newberry said. "Not a lot of balls hit the ground. Serving was the key on both sides."
Wittenbach fired six aces for Kingsford.
Set three initially appeared destined for another tug-o-war, with both teams trading points early. But Iron Mountain, with the lefty Pirkola putting one down from the middle, stopped Kingsford at eight before exploding for the lengthy run.
"It's not that we weren't passing balls, or getting balls over the net, or digging balls, Meyer said. "it was just the momentum was on their side. We did make of few of our own errors, stuff we can control and we have to work on."
"Momentum was everything," Newberry said. "You get that one point or you get that call at the net - anything that would just change it around - and you could run up several points on it."
The intensity of the match was no doubt heightened by the strong student body support from both schools. Even members of the Mountaineers soccer team - still in uniform - raced straight from their 9-1 triumph over Big Bay de Noc at Commemorative Field to join in the fun.
"I'm very proud of the crowd we had here," Newberry said. "For all the years we've gone up against each other, we're starting to get the student body involved.
"I was just thrilled to hear the noise in the gym."
Kingsford defeated Iron Mountain 2-1 (8-25, 25-15, 15-13) in the junior varsity match.
"We were lucky," Flivver coach Jerry Roberge said. "Iron Mountain has a very good team."
Sammie Zander, with eight aces and five kills, did an "excellent job of passing," Roberge said.
Iron Mountain returns to league play Thursday at Manistique, while Kingsford travels to Stephenson Tuesday.
Carlee Benzie - 11 kills, 2 aces; Marissa Menghini - 2 kills, 6 digs, 1 ace; Andrea Roell - 6 kills, 1 block assist; Brooke Sanford - 3 kills, 2 aces, 2 block assists; Lillian Slajus - 4 kills, 1 block, 1 block assist; Margo Wittenbach - 9 kills, 6 aces; Lauren Smith - 5 kills, 2 blocks, 2 block assists.
Abby Gerhard - 7 kills, 5 aces, 9 digs, 5 assists, 2 blocks; Alena Herman - 9 digs; Marti Pirkola - 2 assists; Katelynn Johnson - 12 digs, 10 assists; Sarah Girard - 11 kills, 10 digs, 3 blocks; Gianna Hill - 2 kills, 1 assist; Kari Sanford - 1 kill, 2 assists, 2 digs, 1 ace; Maria Pirkola - 11 kills, 6 blocks, 11 digs; Kristen Gendron - 1 dig.