Mountaineers capture Division 3 district title
Regional opener Tuesday against Calumet
MANISTIQUE — The Iron Mountain Mountaineers defeated the Manistique Emeralds, 3-0, by scores of 30-28, 25-14 and 25-18 on Friday night in Manistique to clinch the 2021 MHSAA Division 3 District 66 Championship.
“Oh goodness, I am thrilled for the team,” said Iron Mountain coach Jeanne Newberry. “Any time you get to bring your team and have your team peak at the right time of the year.”
Iron Mountain will face Calumet at 6 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday at Westwood High School in Ishpeming Township.
The Mountaineers, who controlled the momentum in much of sets two and three, took the 25-18 win in the third-and-final set in part to a five-point — from 19-24 — service run helmed by Chloe Maycroft.
In the run, Maycroft notched five aces in a row. Serving, noted Newberry, is one of the Mountaineers’ strong points and it showed against the Emeralds with Leah Winch — who also had 10 assists — finishing the night at 100% efficiency, while Annslee Runsat went eight-for-nine and Ellison Powell 12-for-13 from the service line.
Leading the team in kills was Runsat, who had 16. Runsat, who was recently named Mid-Peninsula Player of the Year for 2021, summed up the win in one word, “awesome.”
“We practiced our serve receive a lot this week and our hitting, too. When we hit it out, we had to do push-ups, so that made us ready,” Runsat said.
Runsat said the job done by the Iron Mountain setters made her job pretty easy.
“Our setters work a lot,” she added. “They touch the ball a lot in practice and get a bunch of sets. So, they do an awesome job setting it up for me.”
Runsat also noted all-around communication and energy as key points for the team.
“We played really good, we talked really nicely and had good communication,” she said. “We were all pretty hyped and excited, so that really got us through our season.”
One of the major obstacles — especially in the nip-and-tuck first set — for the Mountaineers was the vociferous Manistique fan section, who Newberry referred to as the Emeralds’ seventh player.
“The crowd has a lot to do with their enthusiasm and their loudness,” she said. “I told the girls that we’re going to have a quiet section. They’re going to have a loud section. And they just had to learn to talk amongst each other, so that they could get the play out there, and it was a battle. It was an absolute battle.”
The opening set got off to a good start for the Emeralds, but the gameplan coach Amy Nixon and her Manistique players had in store went out the window, as stellar middle Ella Schuetter left the game with an apparent leg injury after helping her team go up 4-0.
Schuetter returned at the tail end of the second set, with the Manistique crowd chanting her name as she made her way back onto the court.
“I want to give credit to my team who were like, ‘What, you want me to play where? I’ll do it,” Nixon said. “Whatever I asked of them they said ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ and they went out and played their best. When someone gets injured, it can kind of rattle a team, but I felt they really fought for that win in the first set, and we came up short. … I’m really proud of the way they handled that adversity.”
Nixon felt that despite coming up short, the Emeralds performed well.
“I think that they played championship volleyball,” she said. “They were going after everything they could, trying to find the floor, making plays, and big blocks at the net. I was happy with their effort, and I’m just really proud of them.”
The Emeralds spread the ball around, with Schuetter leading in kills with five with Nora Cunningham and Sarah McDaniel with four.
Ava Hinkson — who was all over the floor keeping play alive all night — had 16 digs to lead the team in that category, while Emma Jones led in assists with 11.
As the season ends for the Emeralds, Nixon is happy looking back on the 2021 campaign.
“There is a lot to be proud of. A lot to be proud of,” she said. “We challenged ourself with our schedule. We went down to Leeland to play high-level teams there. We played Escanaba a couple of times. So, we’re really looking to better ourselves by playing good teams. And if that ends up in a couple of losses, it’s preparing us for this moment and moments after tonight.”