MHSAA Class C volleyball: Balanced Gwinn sweeps Negaunee for district title

NEGAUNEE – Stephanie Bahrman just steps back when the well oiled machine known as the Gwinn varsity volleyball team takes the court.

The Modeltowners played solid defense while using numerous players in its attack to sweep the MHSAA Class C district championship from Negaunee on Thursday, 25-21, 25-15, 25-16.

“The girls know how to play out there,” said Bahrman, Gwinn’s third-year coach who also guided her team to a district title two years ago. “I don’t tell them anything other than positioning during a match. They know what to do.

“The girls really love each other, both on the court and off. We have five great seniors, so there’s no drama.”

Apparently, though, those seniors are learning plenty in practice.

“We’ve worked all season on this,” senior Shelby Talsma said about the multiple attacking options the Modeltowners have. “We knew there’s nothing that can get in our way and we knew that we can get over any obstacle.

“Coach gets us to play as a team for any situation in a match.”

Gwinn advances to regional play at Gladstone High School on Tuesday and will face St. Ignace at 7 p.m. A win there puts the Modeltowners in the regional championship on Thursday night against Calumet or Ironwood.

Talsma, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker, made 12 kills Thursday to lead a quartet of GHS seniors with at least eight – Bella Wedig had nine and Chelsea Moton and Katie Aho eight apiece.

“They’re one of the best hitting teams, if not the best hitting team we see,” Negaunee coach Annette Gleason said. “We did really well defensively, but we just couldn’t convert our passes into points.”

Junior Katelyn Johnson led the Miners with four kills.

Negaunee held the lead throughout the early going of the first set, but a Talsma kill on a line drive that glanced off a Miners blocker tied it 5-5. Gwinn quickly took the lead and steadily expanded its advantage.

In Set 2, just the opposite happened – the Modeltowners opened up an 8-2 lead before being whistled for a number of infractions such as touching the net, lifting and passing the ball over the net outside the antenna, cutting into their lead.

Bahrman protested after one call and was flagged with a rare yellow card, a warning that could’ve turned into lost points if another was called.

Though it seemed to inspire the NHS fans at their home Lakeview Memorial Gym, the Gwinn players didn’t let it rattle them, keeping their lead at a minimum of two points before Talsma went on an eight-point serving spree that effectively ended the set.

“That got us hyped up, and I think we tried harder,” Wedig said about the crowd. “So I think that actually worked out in our favor.”

She also credited a strong Gwinn contingent for its lusty cheering that kept the volume turned up high when their team did well.

“We just know we’ll do whatever it takes,” Wedig added.

The first half of the final set was close, with ties at 3-3, 5-5 and 7-7 and Gwinn later up only 15-14.

But that’s when junior Ashley Childs served six straight points, recording a service ace while Talsma, Aho and Wedig each had a kill. Aho served out the final two points, Talsma tapping home a kill to the floor for one and a service ace completing the match.