Prep volleyball: Marquette spoils Kingsford’s shot at GNC title

KINGSFORD – Marquette dashed Kingsford’s Great Northern Conference volleyball title hopes Thursday.

The Redettes, with senior Tayler Smith a force at the net and serve line, outlasted the Flivvers in five sets, 25-19, 27-25, 26-28, 18-25, 15-7.

Menominee, with two GNC losses and shooting for the outright GNC crown, plays Stephenson, which has three losses, on Monday to close out the league slate. Marquette and Kingsford both own 5-4 ledgers.

“That was a great high school volleyball match,” Marquette Coach Mike Morgan said. “Every time we play these guys it’s a battle. I love it. It’s good, clean volleyball with everybody working really hard.”

In the deciding fifth set, Smith started off with three straight kills for a 3-0 lead and Hunter Viitala came on strong later with two ace serves and a kill.

“We didn’t come out and play our best,” Flivver coach Steve Andrews said. “Marquette played well. In the end, they just got the better of us.”

Smith, with a nasty serve, fired two of her eight aces in the final points of the first set. Morgan Leadbetter and Viitala also provided big kills.

“Tayler’s going to go on and play some college ball,” Morgan said. “With that hard top spin serve, when she’s down it is very effective.”

In the second set, Kingsford’s Lillian Slajus found an opening for a 25-24 lead. But Smith answered with a spike and ace serve, and Viitala delivered the deciding point.

The score was deadlocked six times in the waning moments of the third set. Flivvers’ Emily Murdock slammed the Redettes twice for 24-23 and 25-24 leads.

Courtney McGovern, who paced Marquette with 37 assists, directed one ball for a 25-25 draw. After Maria Wiltzius put the Flivvers ahead and the Redettes evened the score at 26, two errors finally decided the third set.

Two Murdock kills and two aces from sophomore Nicole Roberge helped the Flivvers pull away in the fourth set. Slajus closed things out with back-to-back kills.

“The match had a lot of ebbs and flows,” Morgan said. “But as a whole both teams played great. Everybody was forcing the other team to play great defense. It was just enjoyable volleyball.”

A diving save and score from Murdock allowed Kingsford to close to 9-6 in the fifth set. But Flivver miscues, Viitala’s aces and McGovern pushing home the 14th point decided the match.

“We got tentative and tight but we’re getting better,” Andrews said. “We have five-set matches we win some, we lose some.”

Marquette’s Smith and Viitala tallied 17 and 16 kills, respectively, for the match. Mariah Grange notched five digs and Taylor Ehle had four blocks.

About one month ago, Kingsford downed Marquette in four sets.

“We passed the ball much better tonight than we did back in September,” Morgan said. “Early in the year we had a lot of struggles controlling the ball on our side of the net. We’ve really worked hard on it and that allows us to have some options at the net.”

Andrews also noted Marquette’s improved passing.

“They’re well coached and we know they’re going to improve,” Andrews said. “They’re doing the same stuff. They’re just doing it better with less errors.

“They’re a solid team, and always were.”

Marquette travels to Escanaba on Tuesday. Kingsford visits Forest Park on Tuesday and winds up the GNC season next Thursday at Gladstone.

Kingsford’s junior varsity defeated Marquette to clinch at least a share of the GNC title.