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Lady Trojans spikers dethrone five-time champ Carney-Nadeau

Forest Park’s Rayven Jacobson (3) hits the ball over the net as Carney-Nadeau players Mariska Laurila (4) and Mackenzie Walcher (12) leap to make a play on the ball in the MHSAA Division 4 District 99 championship match Thursday night at the Eddie Chambers Memorial Gymnasium in Crystal Falls.

CRYSTAL FALLS — From losing the opening set of its first dual match of the season by 20 points to winning a district championship — that’s the extraordinary story of the 2021 Forest Park Lady Trojans volleyball team.

And that tale is not completed yet. However, a major plot point has been established after the Lady Trojans upended five-time defending champion Carney-Nadeau, 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-20, 25-18) in the Division 4 District 99 final Thursday at Eddie Chambers Memorial Gymnasium.

Senior setter Rayven Jacobson said this was her team’s time.

“It means a lot, truly,” said Jacobson, who totalled 16 digs, 15 assists and six kills. “It’s been five years and before that we were winning a lot of districts. And we said today at the pep rally, this is our year. We’re taking it back this year.”

Forest Park coach Bobbie Jo Anderson, who secured her first district championship trophy as Lady Trojans’ head coach, reflected on the past as well.

“For the last few years, we tend to draw Carney in the first game of the districts. And we end up playing them in Carney, and of course they have their own fans and they have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. And they’ve been a really, really good team,” she said.

“But as the season went on and we gained momentum and our girls were improving and improving, that goal (of winning the district) seemed more reachable for us.”

Carney-Nadeau coach Steve Kedsch said the Lady Trojans earned their hardware.

“My team, I’m very proud of them, they played hard tonight. I thought we played a great match. Give Forest Park all the credit, they played a real good match tonight. Sometimes you do what you want to do on the court, but yet the outcome isn’t what you want.”

The Wolves drew first blood after surviving a tight opening set. Neither team held more than a three-point lead — Forest Park at 7-4 and Carney-Nadeau at 24-21. A couple of Forest Park errors broke the 24-all tie and the Wolves jumped in front.

Senior Malorie Baumler, playing on a hurt ankle, sparked the win with three kills while fellow senior Mackenzie Walcher added two.

The second set was more of the same — a teeter-totter game in which Forest Park broke a 12-12 tie with an 11-6 run, sparked by an ace from Ashlynn Kannich, a tip from Audrey Franz and a powerful kill from Leah Feldhausen.

A service error by Carney-Nadeau on set point evened the match heading into the pivotal third set.

The Wolves held a 19-15 edge before Feldhausen stepped forward with three kills, including a seeing-eye shot that found a hole in the middle of the Carney-Nadeau defense on set point that completed a 10-1 run.

“In that first game, Leah struggled a little bit and she was making some silly mistakes and we kind of got on her,” Anderson said. “She tends to do this, too, when she settles in and her nerves calm, that’s when she starts to play really well. And as soon as we can get her playing well and (Ema) up there with her, then that second rotation to the front is stronger for us.”

Stepien paced the Forest Park attack with eight kills, while Feldhausen added seven. Middle hitter Gracie Peterson chipped in with six kills.

The Lady Trojans kept their momentum going in the fourth. The teams split the first six points before Forest Park embarked on a 9-1 surge. Peterson served two aces, Stepien hammered consecutive kills and Feldhausen added a block during the key stretch.

The Wolves were not out of the fight, however. Mary Sivula served back-to-back aces and Baumler added a tip to pull Carney-Nadeau within three at 18-15, but fortune smiled on Forest Park on the next point.

Franz attempted a spike from the left side and the ball hit the net and rolled along before dropping into an open spot on the Wolves’ front line. From there, Forest Park won seven of the next 10 points to seal the win and take the title away from Carney-Nadeau for the first time in six years.

Kedsch said all of his three seniors — Sivula, Walcher and Baumler — will be missed.

Anderson offered an early preview of the regional, which will start for her team on Tuesday against tonight’s winner between North Dickinson and Superior Central. That regional semifinal will be played in Felch at the Carl F. Lemin Jr. Gymnasium.

“We’re excited. We’ve beat both teams and we know that if we have the momentum and the energy and we work hard, it’s definitely reachable,” Anderson said.

CARNEY-NADEAU STATS

Baumler 14 kills, 9 digs

Walcher 28 digs, 7 kills, 4 aces

Sivula 12 digs, 4 aces, 2 assists, 1 kill

Kedsch 24 assists, 11 digs, 1 ace

DeGrave 6 kills, 2 aces, 1 dig, 1 block

Accord 23 digs, 1 assist

Laurila 4 kills, 2 digs

FOREST PARK STATS

Jacobson 16 digs, 15 assists, 6 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace

Larson 15 digs, 9 assists

Peterson 11 digs, 7 kills, 5 aces, 1 block

Kannich 17 digs, 4 aces, 2 kills

Feldhausen 7 kills, 3 blocks, 1 dig

Stepien 8 kills, 5 digs

Franz 11 digs, 2 kills, 1 ace

Divine 7 digs, 2 kills

Kudwa 3 assists, 2 kills, 2 digs

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