MANISTIQUE — After achieving its first major goal, the Manistique volleyball team is looking for more this season.
The Emeralds clinched the Mid-Peninsula Conference title Oct. 4 by sweeping Negaunee. They opened this fall by winning the Kingsford Invitational Aug. 20. Their only losses took place in semifinal matches against Kingsford at the Marquette Invitational on Sept. 24 and against Charlevoix in three sets at the Rayders’ invitational a week earlier.
Manistique has been receiving honorable mention in the state Division 3 rankings, and the Indian River Inland Lakes Invitational this Saturday will provide an opportunity to potentially see not only the Division 4 No. 4 Bulldogs, but also bigger schools like Alpena, Petoskey and Sault Ste. Marie.
All should be good preparation for the Emeralds, who host their Division 3 District next month after reaching the District Final a year ago.
“We’ve really improved from the opening tournament,” said coach Amy Nixon, who took over the program in 2008. “I think our offense has really stepped up and become more dominant. I think we’ll be able to run more plays which will help us down the road.
"Last year we lost to Iron Mountain in the District. Most of the girls are back from last season. We’re looking forward to finishing what we started last season.”
Senior Nora Cunningham and juniors Ella Schuetter and Emma Jones all earned all-region honors last season. Cunningham, an outside hitter, served for four aces in the Emeralds’ 25-15, 25-9, 25-9 triumph at Westwood two weeks ago.
"Serving is one of our strengths,” she said. “We make it a priority. When we serve well, good things happen."
Jones, a setter, collected 26 assists and senior Kelsey Muth added 11 subbing against the Patriots. Jones has eclipsed 1,000 career assists this season.
“I have a lot of responsibility as a setter,” said Jones. “I set up all the plays (in a 5-1 offense), although I definitely couldn’t do it without my teammates. I think our communication has gotten better during the season. I certainly think all the time we put in during the summer gave us confidence coming into this season.”
“Communication was a factor in our loss to Charlevoix,” added senior middle hitter Sarah McDaniel. “We just have to make sure to control what we can control. In our loss to Kingsford, I think we learned to pick up our communication when times are hard. We definitely have a lot of depth on this team. Everybody is ready to go.”
Schuetter, a middle hitter, has made all-tournament teams at Marquette and Charlevoix this season, joined by Jones at the latter.
“We have real good chemistry” she said. “The most improvement I’ve seen is our drive and commitment as a team.”
Tonight’s match against Gwinn is one of five remaining along with the Inland Lakes tournament before the regular season ends. The Emeralds did earn a sweep against Iron Mountain on Sept. 19 and could see the Mountaineers again in a District rematch, with Bark River-Harris, Gwinn and Menominee also in the bracket.
“We always want to play hard competition and show who we are,” Cunningham said. “Being able to overcome adversity has been a highlight to our season. That shows how much fight this team has.”
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTO Manistique celebrates its league championship-clinching win Oct. 4. (Photo courtesy of the Manistique volleyball program.)
Sarah Bradley ♦ Clarkston Everest Collegiate
Junior ♦ Volleyball
The 6-0 outside hitter had 31 kills – tied for sixth-most in an MHSAA Final – with a .419 hitting percentage and 18 digs as Everest Collegiate came back from a two-set deficit to defeat No. 4-ranked Leland in five in Saturday’s Division 4 championship match at Kellogg Arena. The first Finals title in program history capped a tournament run that saw the Mountaineers also win their first Regional title. Everest entered the postseason ranked No. 10 in Division 4 and finished 32-4-2.
Bradley finished the season with 420 kills, adding 15 in a Quarterfinal win over No. 6 Marlette and 25 in a five-set Semifinal victory over top-ranked Adrian Lenawee Christian during which Everest also came back after losing the first two sets. Bradley was named to the Division 4 all-state first team after earning an honorable mention as a sophomore. She also plays basketball, softball and soccer for the Mountaineers and is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field as she begins contemplating her college possibilities.
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Past 2023-24 Honorees
Nov. 17: Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10: Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27: Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20: Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13: Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5: Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29: MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22: Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15: Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8: Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1: Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report
(Photos courtesy of the Clarkston Everest Collegiate athletic department.)