WIC volleyball meshed at right time

IRON RIVER — Victoria Maloney wouldn’t come off the court.

Her entire West Iron County team was gone and she just stood out there alone.

Playing with a “finish strong” credo set down by her brother Max, an All-UP football player now at Michigan Tech, she was still coming to grips with the volleyball season ending in the Class C regional finals.

“This season was special for a variety of reasons,” said Maloney when asked to assess the Wykons’ year. “The obvious reason was that it was my senior year. I didn’t have another chance next year like I did past years. I didn’t have another chance to prove myself. I didn’t have any other years. This was it. I had only one chance to make it count. That was my one and only goal for the season.”

As for personal goals, Maloney was selected to the All-West PAC second-team. However, she prefers to emphasize the team’s performance.

“The team this year was impeccable,” said the daughter of Iron River’s Pete and Denise Maloney. “We all meshed together well without force. The beginning of the season was a little rough, but as time progressed, we turned into a family.

“We all messed around with each other creating smiles and laughter. Smiles and laughter might have been our secret weapon for the tournament.”

The Wykons downed Iron Mountain and Ironwood to win the district in Charles Greenlund Gymnasium. They swept Westwood in the regional semifinals before falling to six-time defending regional champion Calumet 3-0 (25-11, 25-8, 25-22).

“A senior-dominated team can be hard,” said Maloney, one of seven seniors on the squad. “We used it to our advantage. Each girl knew what was at stake and all wanted to go as far as we could for each other. I don’t believe it was ever about how far one single person could go for themselves. It was always how far we could go for our team.”

Middle hitter Rachael Tefft was All-West PAC first team. Breanna Kemppainen received honorable mention. The other WIC seniors are Lexi Lutes, Lexi Anderson, Megan Strom and Summer Parent.

“The actions that spoke the loudest for us was not at the beginning of the season, or the middle, but rather the end,” Maloney said. “Going into tournament play we did have confidence in ourselves to do good and when the student body came out to support that confidence sky rocketed.

“It didn’t end there. Then the support from the community blew us all away.”

After the first district game, Maloney came into school to find the walls covered with signs and decorations supporting the volleyball team.

“I was in shock,” she said. “I did not expect any of it. Each game day the mothers would post things on Facebook about the games and the responses from people was spectacular. People near and far were following us, sending us luck, and anxiously waiting on how we did.”

She was particularly moved by the send-off to Gladstone for the regional opener. The team had an escort of fire trucks and police cars.

“I almost had to pinch myself to make sure this was not a dream,” Maloney said. “I couldn’t believe that it was happening. On the ride from the school, the community put signs out all through town and many stood outside and waved us good luck as we went. I never had experienced something like this before. I was in shock by all the people who showed up and cheered us on. There isn’t words to describe all of the emotions the team had during this experience.”

West Iron County completed the regular season with three straight 3-0 sweeps including a rare one over rival Forest Park. Coach Brenda Grubbs’ Wykons finished with an overall record of 18-13-7 — 6-2 from mid-October to the conclusion on Nov. 9.

That would be three months to the day from the start of volleyball practice.

“The memories made will forever be remembered and I am honored to be able to share this moment with my team and my community,” said Maloney, who plans to major in nursing but has not decided on a college. “I can’t thank the community enough for supporting us. I am blessed to live in a small town that comes together to support the high school teams. I don’t think I could of even imagined a better way to end my volleyball career.”