Volleyball: Munising advances to state semifinals for 1st time

Keira Stampfly, right, catches the ball squarely for a bump in Munising's Class D quarterfinal volleyball match against Rudyard in Manistique on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Teammates Kianne Wendt, center, and Marissa Ackerman look on. (Isiah Otten/Sault News)

MANISTIQUE — The Munising Mustangs and Rudyard Bulldogs took a journey into uncharted territory Tuesday night as their volleyball teams reached the state quarterfinals for the first time.

Munising’s journey will continue following a hard-fought four-set victory, 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-19, in a Class D match at Manistique High School.

The win sends the Mustangs to the semifinals at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek where they’ll meet Fowler at noon Thursday.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Munising senior middle hitter Kianne Wendt, who was nearly overcome with emotion while trying to take everything in. “Our goal was to get a regional title. This is icing on the cake.

“We knew it was going to be a battle. We were ready. We worked so hard for this all season. We’re just ready for the next one.”

Neither team led by more than four points until the fourth set when the Mustangs took a 15-9 advantage, but their lead then diminished to 15-12 following a hitting error.

The Mustangs responded with a 6-2 run, giving them a 20-14 cushion.

“We wanted to be the first team to 15 points, then the first one to 20,” said Wendt, this year’s Skyline Central Conference Player of the Year. “Carney-Nadeau dug up everything in the regional final (in Friday’s 3-2 victory at Westwood), which prepared us well for tonight.

“We also learned a lot from playing Calumet (in a 3-0 Class C regional loss) last year. They had such hard hitters. That showed how much harder we had to work.”

The Bulldogs were trailing 23-17 when they called their last timeout, then cut their deficit to four points by taking advantage of a couple Mustangs’ miscues.

Munising then scored the last two points, securing the decision on a Bulldogs’ passing error.

“We told the girls it was going to be a battle and from here on out it’s going to be a slugfest,” Munising coach Ted Williams said. “We’ve got to be ready to take a few punches and give some out. We’ve had a lot of firsts this year. This has been a fabulous year. The girls are working tremendously hard and they’re enjoying it.”

The Bulldogs led 24-20 in the third set, but their lead melted to 24-23 before they secured that set on a Mustangs’ miscue.

“They (Munising) didn’t let up on their attack,” Rudyard coach Ellen Perry said. “They seem to have some depth on their team. We struggled a little with our serving in the first set, then it came around. We knew we had to play flawless tonight. We played well, but not flawless.”

Munising secured the opener on Wendt’s kill to middle and the second set on a kill by junior Michaela Werner.

“We were in the same situation against Carney,” Williams said. “We had to keep going. They’re a good team. They were tremendous on defense. We had to work hard to find cracks in their defense. Rudyard is also a good team, but I thought our girls fought real hard with them.

“The win over Carney gave the girls some confidence. They found what it takes to win big matches.”

Wendt hit five service aces to go with 28 kills, a block and eight digs. Werner added 11 kills, five blocks and nine digs. Contreras collected 43 assists and 12 digs and Marissa Ackerman had 22 digs.

“We saw the usual phenomenal performance from outside hitter Kianne Wendt, setter Emily Contreras and libero Marissa Ackerman,” Williams said. “Also contributing were middle hitter Michaela Warner, and Daryn Johnson was an even bigger force than the stats show. Daryn was swinging hard and had them back on their heels.”

Rudyard senior Sierra Dugan recorded 11 kills. Junior middle hitter Sydnie Zeeryp added nine kills and six blocks. Senior middle Hannah Beelen tallied nine kills and three blocks and Clegg had nine kills and 15 digs. Senior libero Jordan Spring also had 15 kills and junior setter Cierra Molina finished with 30 assists.

“The girls put it all out there,” Perry said. “Jordan dug up some hard shots and Sydnie has a real good future. We said if we were going down, we were going down fighting. We have a great group of young ladies. They’re fighters.”