By BURT ANGELI
CRYSTAL FALLS - Forest Park suffered just two losses in the 2013 volleyball season.
Paul Girard Photo
Forest Park’s Maria Stankewicz battles at the net in a Class D volleyball state semifinal at Battle Creek.
One came in the season-opening Kingsford Invitational on Aug. 24. The other in the Class D state semifinals last Thursday.
That's not a bad way to wind up the three-month campaign.
"I'm proud of what these girls accomplished this year," Forest Park Coach Kim Bjork said. "They lost one match at the beginning of the season and didn't lose again until the state semis. That is impressive."
Great Northern Conference co-champion Menominee defeated Forest Park in the season-opening Kingsford Invitational.
The Lady Trojans (31-2-5) ran into state champion Battle Creek St. Philip in the state semifinals at Battle Creek. The Fighting Tigers, with Western Michigan University-bound Sierra Hubbard-Neil drilling 21 kills, swept Forest Park 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-17).
"We got off to a slow start," Bjork said. "We had opportunities to take the second set but just couldn't get it done.
"I think we matched up well with St Phil, other than Hubbard-Neil. She was the real deal. We couldn't slow her down. We struggled at the service line and with serve receive. Too many unforced errors."
Forest Park, a perennial Skyline Conference champion, graduates three seniors in Lexi Gussert, Kendra Campbell and Hannah Marinoff.
"This is a special group of young ladies and I'm really going to miss our three stellar seniors," Bjork said. "Lexi did a nice job all around (in the state semi). She has elevated her level of play with every match in the postseason. She's irreplaceable and I have learned so much from her in four years of coaching her."
Bjork said Campbell "really stepped up this year."
"I can't say enough about how proud I am of her," Bjork said. "Kendra gave us another middle threat and came up big for us at the service line in some of our postseason matches."
Hannah Marinoff played well all season after having to sit out last season with health issues.
"Most kids would struggle after missing a year, but Hannah worked so hard to get back in the volleyball groove," Bjork said. "She did a great job in the libero position."
Maria Stankewicz, Libby Shamion, Kelsi Hendrickson, Adel Isaacson and Michaela Steiro will serve as the foundation for next year's team.
"We have some great underclassmen coming back next year," Bjork said. "Five of them saw a lot of playing time in the postseason and that is huge for future postseason play."
Bjork said Stankewicz "had another great year setting."
"Maria is a smart player and controlled the offense," Bjork said. "She is going to keep developing her game and I can only imagine how much better she will be next year."
Bjork called Shamion a "dynamic player."
"Her passing and serving have really been her strong points," she said. "Kelsi and Adel have given us great versatility on the right side and have both become more confident in their roles.
"Michaela has been a good offensive threat for us all season. If she works in the off season, she is going to be one of our go-to hitters next year.
"We have an awesome group of sophomores and juniors coming in next year. I'm excited."
The Lady Trojans coach expressed appreciation to the community, media, school, students, staff, teachers and administration."
"No one can match the support Forest Park gives to their student-athletes," said Bjork, adding a special salute to the parents. "They are always there no matter who we are playing and will do anything to support us whether it be spaghetti dinners, sign-making, laundry duty, tending to sick kids or cheering loudly from the stands."