GLADSTONE - They came, they saw, they conquered.
Calumet completed an important part of its post-season mission Thursday night, retaining its Class C regional volleyball title with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-19) triumph over the Gwinn Modeltowners in the Gladstone High School gym.
"Gwinn gave us a nice challenge," said Calumet coach Lisa Twardzik. "It was a great match for both teams and their fans. It was exciting to be here. I think I lost some of my hearing being in front of the Gwinn fans. Everybody in the U.P. is fighting to improve the level of competition up here, and I think that was evident in tonight's match."
The victory sends the Copper Kings to Tuesday's state quarterfinals at St. Ignace, where they'll face Beal City.
Beal City advanced by eliminating Traverse City St. Francis, which Calumet met in the quarterfinals last year, 3-1 in a regional final at McBain Thursday night.
Calumet led 24-16 in the final set before a hitting error allowed Gwinn to get a sideout.
The Modeltowners then scored the next two points to pull within 24-19, but were unable to return the ball on their last try.
"Our girls put up a fight," said Gwinn coach Stephanie Bahrman. "We couldn't have asked for a better season or a better effort than the girls gave tonight."
The final set was tied at 3 before the Copper Kings went ahead to stay on a kill by junior Catherine Frantti.
Gwinn was still within 16-13 in the finale. Calumet then got a kill by junior Ellen Twardzik for a sideout and 17-13 cushion.
Junior Lexie Rowe followed with a kill to make it 18-13, forcing Gwinn to use a time-out.
"Our coach told us to keep pushing and playing our game," said Rowe, who finished with 10 kills, a service ace, two assists and 16 digs. "She always tells us there's a target on our back and we need to stay focused. I'm really proud of our team and coach. I really believe we can get far (in the state tournament)."
After the time-out, senior Megan Yeo provided Calumet with a service ace and Rowe added another kill for a 20-13 advantage.
A pair of five-point service runs fueled Calumet in the second set, including one by junior Terilynne Budreau for a 13-5 advantage. Senior Loretta Anderson then added a five-point run of her own to put the Copper Kings up 20-10.
Gwinn held a 15-12 lead in the opener following a blocking error by the Copper Kings.
Calumet then went on an 8-2 run, gaining a 20-17 advantage on a kill by Anderson.
The Copper Kings continued to maintain the upper hand, finishing that set on a return error.
"We were a little nervous coming in here, but
started getting our confidence after the first set," said senior Pam Torola, who collected four kills and nine digs. "We always get butterflies before a match, but it's a little unusual for us to start out slow. We're used to coming out strong."
Anderson added six kills, three aces and four digs. Junior Carissa Pavolich tallied six kills to go with an assist and a dig, with Yeo among the defensive leaders with 16 digs.
"I thought our girls did a nice job scrambling for the ball," said coach Twardzik. "We stayed composed. Although we had some errors which will need to be cleaned up."
Senior Katie Aho paced the Modeltowners with seven kills. Classmate Bella Wedig added six kills and three aces and Chelsea Moton had five kills.
"They (Modeltowners) kept pushing," said Rowe. "I have to give credit to No. 6 (Aho). She's a good hitter."
Gwinn's senior setter Kaylee Arnsparger recorded 20 assists. Junior Ellie Olsen had 11 digs and classmate Ashley Childs added nine.
"Calumet started to eliminate some of their errors after the first game and we were struggling with that," said Bahrman. "We were swinging well and making smart decisions in the first game and they played well as a team the whole time."