By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - Three tight sets of volleyball all ended in Stephenson's favor here Tuesday, as the Eagles earned a 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 Great Northern Conference volleyball victory over Kingsford.
Theresa Proudfit/The Daily News Photo
Kingsford’s Mariah Wiltzius puts up a block against the attack of Stephenson’s Lexi Johnson during Tuesday’s Great Northern Conference match.
"Kingsford is really tough," Stephenson coach Sara Johnson said. "You have to fight for every point and we knew that. I told the girls, Kingsford would slam it on you every now and then and you can't let that get you down.
"We recovered well from everything they threw at us."
Strong play in the middle helped carry the Eagles in key spots. Lexi Johnson led the way there with about 10 kills and five blocks. Ally Duprey added another half dozen kills. As a team, the Eagles were closing in on 10 blocks by the end of the match.
"We worked on blocking most of practice yesterday and that helped," Johnson said. "They did real well on that."
Lauren Smith led Kingsford's counter attack in the middle, firing a match-best 13 kills, but other than some contribution from Emily Murdock on the outside, the Flivvers offense proved a little too one-dimensional.
"I've been on Lauren to attack the ball," Kingsford coach Steve Andrews said. "She did that tonight. She killed it."
Andrews, however, cited poor passing for the lack of a balanced attack.
"Everybody was just stuck," he said. "They were not moving their feet. They were reaching and standing up, not driving their hips. I don't know. I can't explain it. Just an off night is all I can count it up to be."
Stephenson dropped nearly 10 aces on the Flivvers, Johnson and Kelsey Johnson each contributing a couple.
"Our serving is coming," coach Johnson said. "We were serving weak earlier in the season. I challenged them not worry about errors so much and start hitting harder. And it's coming."
The Flivvers fell behind in both of the first two sets before closing the gap late.
Set one was 20-15 Stephenson before Murdock went on serve and helped ignite a 5-0 run. The Flivvers actually took a lead at 23-22, before a couple of hitting errors allowed the Eagles to escape.
In set two, Stephenson led 18-11 before running into trouble defending Smith in the middle. Smith rifled six kills in a 10-0 run that had the Flivvers up 20-19. A couple of hits into the net extinguished Kingsford's momentum, and the Eagles recovered. Duprey slammed one to make it 24-22, and Lexi Rasner ended it with an ace that dropped in untouched.
Even throughout, set three was tied as late as 18-18 before Kingsford ran into trouble keeping its attack in bounds. And then Karlina Johnson and Duprey whacked consecutive kills as Stephenson completed its sweep.
"They have some good hitters," Kingsford coach Steven Andrews said. "When we run into resistance, we sometimes get tentative and tight. Against a solid team like Stephenson, it can make your night long."
Stephenson improved to 5-2 in league play. The Flivvers, off until Tuesday when they go to Iron Mountain, slipped to 2-2 in conference.
"It kind of bites that it was a GNC loss," Andrews said. "We'll keep battling and move forward from here."