The Calumet Copper Kings were on a mission to regain their volleyball title in Saturday’s Kingsford Invitational.
They achieved that by defeating Iron Mountain 21-13, 21-12 in the championship match.
The Copper Kings outlasted Negaunee 21-9, 14-21, 15-11 in the semifinals and Iron Mountain eliminated North Dickinson 21-13, 21-13 in the other semifinal.
This marked the coaching debut for Matt Laho, who inherited the Copper Kings from longtime mentor Lisa Twardzik.
“I’d say this was a good start,” said Laho. “Our goal was to come back here and regain the title and we did that. I think this was a good stepping stone. We needed to guage where we’re at.”
Defending champion Hancock failed to advance from pool play this time, finishing 2-6.
Calumet, which had won the tournament at least the previous four years, secured Saturday’s championship on back-to-back service aces by Lea Bjorn.
Iron Mountain gained a 5-1 lead in the nightcap, but Calumet eventually gained the upper hand at 8-7 on an ace by Celia Kiilunen.
The Mountaineers regained the lead briefly (9-8) before back-to-back passing errors enabled Calumet to go back in front.
Bjorn recorded a kill for an 11-9 lead, then added an ace and a kill during the 8-1 run, helping the Copper Kings gain a 16-10 advantage.
The Mountaineers shaved their deficit to 16-12 on Jo Jo Weslin’s tip for a kill.
Calumet, however, didn’t allow them to get any closer.
“Coming in, we looked at getting the first hit in and getting good passes on the third hit,” said Laho. “I think we did that well and we served real well (88 percent).”
In the first set, a Calumet passing error enabled Iron Mountain to tie the score at seven before Brooke Karaniemi’s tip for a kill sent the Copper Kings ahead to stay.
The Mountaineers came within 11-9 on a passing miscue, but followed that with a service error.
Bjorn made it 13-9 on a kill, helping the Copper Kings pull away.
In pool play, Calumet split with Norway (21-12, 19-21) and Iron Mountain (19-21, 23-21), then beat Menominee (21-11, 21-6) and Escanaba (21-19, 21-9).
Bjorn led the Copper Kings with 15 aces, 40 kills, a block and 33 digs. Niina Anderson added 12 aces and 15 digs. Brea Johnson tallied 11 aces, 13 kills and 15 digs. Kiilunen had seven aces, 19 kills, two blocks and six digs. Molly Larson collected 29 digs and Ava Anderson had 23.
Calumet’s Amber Johnson was sidelined after receiving a cut on her chin in the second set of the semifinal match against Negaunee.
“Amber was dizzy for bit, but other girls stepped up,” said Laho. “Lea was hitting the ball real well and Celia really came through with some big kills.”
The Mountaineers whipped Menominee (21-13, 21-1) before splitting with Calumet and Esky (21-16, 16-21) and Norway (21-16, 16-21) prior to their semifinal victory over North Dickinson.
“We had quite a bit of excitement today,” said Iron Mountain coach Jeanne Newberry. “All-in-all the girls played well. We had little bit of miscommunication at times. Although this is a good start for us, I think. We lost quite a few from last year, but these are talented girls. I thought Hannah Ellis did a great job for us. We have a strong bench, which enables us to run a strong offense.”
Hancock split with Kingsford (18-21, 21-14), fell to North Dickinson (21-16, 21-16) and Forest Park (21-19, 21-14) prior to splitting with Negaunee (22-20, 13-21).
The Bulldogs led 10-7 in their second set with Negaunee. The Miners then got a sideout and gained a 14-10 lead behind Chloe Norman’s six-point service run.
“We have to work through some mental things,” said Hancock assistant coach Claire Meyer. “We have three seniors who we rely on for leadership. Otherwise, we have a very young team. The girls are playing at a new level, but they’ll overcome that. This will make them better for the regular season. We did a lot of good things, only we got caught up in the opening day jitters.”
Calumet — Bjorn (15 aces, 40 kills, one block, 33 digs); N. Anderson (12 aces, 15 digs, 24 assists); B. Johnson (11 aces, 13 kills, 30 assists, 15 digs); Kiilunen (seven aces, 19 kills, two blocks, six digs); Molly Larson (six aces, 29 digs); A. Anderson (two aces, 23 digs); Spence (two aces, seven kills, five blocks, three digs); Peters (one ace, one block, three digs); A. Johnson (one ace, one block); Maria Larson (five kills, two blocks, two assists, four digs); Hyrkas (three kills, four blocks, three digs); Wickstrom (two kills); Sturos (one kill, one block).