Prep volleyball: Marquette’s Smith too much for Escanaba to handle

ESCANABA – After already racking up several of her match-high 18 kills Tuesday night, hard-hitting Tayler Smith caught the Eskymos defense off-guard early in the second set.

Smith went up for the ball at net-front and the Eskymos reflexively backed off to defend the oncoming spike, but Smith unexpectedly just tapped the ball over the net for an easy kill.

Escanaba had no answer for Smith and the streaking Redettes in their home finale, as Marquette went on to a 25-21, 25-17 11-25, 25-19 volleyball victory.

Marquette wrapped up the regular season with its victory. After a first-round bye, the Redettes will host Alpena or Traverse City West next Wednesday in a tough seven-team district.

“Whoever comes up from downstate will be strong,” MSHS coach Mike Morgan said. “Traverse City West won their conference. I’ve seen a little footage on both teams and they’re going to make us work.”

Smith, who finished Tuesday’s match with 18 kills and four service aces, will be one of their keys.

“Tayler is a special player. She’ll go on to play at college somewhere, that’s her goal. She was on early,” Morgan said. “She’s gotten 4-5 girls this year that have gotten caught around the 10-foot line on swings. You just don’t see players up here like that in the middle very often, but this year in the conference, we’ve been blessed with several.”

Smith racked up kills on Marquette’s first five points of the match and used her height to her advantage at net-front.

Escanaba coach Theresa Heidt was impressed.

“I absolutely love that girl. (Tayler) is a true athlete, all around, everything she does,” Heidt said. “She definitely put a hurt on us tonight. She’s wonderful to watch … definitely one of the top athletes in the U.P.”

Kills were hard to come by for Escanaba throughout the first two sets, but the Eskymos hung around and capitalized off several hitting and serving errors from the Redettes. That all came to a head during the third set, when Escanaba’s offense came alive in conjunction with Marquette errors.

The fourth set was close early as each team traded hits, with Escanaba winning the important momentum-building long points. But with Marquette leading 11-9, the Redettes began to pull away with a 5-0 streak and Esky never recovered.

The Eskymos did make a late run with Marquette leading 22-15, taking four of the next five points, but two quick kills from Marquette closed it out.

The Redettes’ Courtney McGovern recorded 30 assists while Hunter Viitala had 13 digs.