By John Vrancic
For the Daily News
MANISTIQUE - Onaway proved a tough match-up for Forest Park Tuesday night as it handed the Trojans a 25-17, 25-9, 25-13 volleyball loss in a Class D state quarterfinal match at Manistique High School.
Keith Shelton/Daily Press Photo
Lexi Gussert of Forest Park tries to push the ball past Onaway’s Devin Bristley during their MHSAA quarterfinal match Tuesday at Manistique.
The victory sends Onaway to the semifinals for the first time to face Battle Creek St. Phillip Friday in Battle Creek.
Forest Park fell behind quickly and trailed by as much as 14-7 in the opening set.
The Trojans fought back within 18-16 on a kill by junior middle hitter Lexi Gussert, but were unable to gain the upper hand.
"They (Onaway) are definitely a very good team," said Forest Park coach Kim Bjork. "Although, our girls are better than they showed tonight. We couldn't get into any rhythm. We didn't get many good opportunities to put the ball away. We put ourselves in a hole right away and did it again in the second set. It wasn't our night. We didn't play well."
Onaway, fueled by junior Devin Bristley's seven-point service run, built a quick 8-0 advantage in the second set and continued to add to its cushion in its first quarterfinal appearance.
"It's always a positive to get off to a good start," said Onaway coach Steve Watson. "Although, we've been down a set couple times this year and been able to bounce back. We play in a tough (Ski Valley) conference and have been in a difficult atmosphere a lot this year. In the last 4-5 years we've sent four teams to the semifinals, and now we're going."
The Trojans mounted a challenge early in the third set, gaining a 10-9 on a kill by junior outside hitter Kendra Campbell.
But a Trojan digging error enabled Onaway to tie that set. The Cardinals then scored six straight points for a 16-10 cushion.
A serving miscue enabled the Trojans to trim their deficit to 16-11. But they were unable to get any closer.
Bristley finished with four service aces, eight kills and 16 digs. Junior Mariah Ehrkc added three aces, nine kills, a block and 11 digs. Senior Megan Estep collected a block, 19 assists and eight digs and sophomore Lexi Szymoniak had 12 digs.
"The girls spent a lot of time working on their game during the off-season and it paid off," said Watson. "They played travel ball during the winter and summer."
Gussert paced Forest Park with three aces, nine kills, four blocks and 19 digs. Senior libero Gina Graff recorded 23 digs and outside hitter Mindy DeNell had 18 digs.
"Considering what we lost (through graduation) from last year, we had a good season," said Bjork. "Onaway definitely has the best defense we've seen all year. Mental errors hurt us tonight. But we're young."
Forest Park finished the season 31-4-3.
"Our seniors will be missed but they have a lot to be proud of as FP volleyball players," Bjork said.
Onaway - Bristley (four aces, eight kills, 16 digs); Ehrkc (three aces, nine kills, one block, 11 digs); Fullerton (two aces, four kills, two blocks, four digs); Szymoniak (two aces, 12 digs); Shimel (one ace); M. Estep (one block, 19 assists, eight digs); E. Estep (eight digs).
Forest Park - Gussert (three aces, nine kills, four blocks, 19 digs); Shamion (one ace, one kill, one dig); Sommers (one ace, two digs); DeNell (two kills, 18 digs); Stankewicz (two kills, seven digs); Campbell (one kill, three digs); Grandahl (one block, one dig); Graff (23 digs); Nylund (eight digs); Steiro (one dig).