IRON RIVER - Ironwood, with senior Jessica Gering firing a match-best 13 kills and plenty of support from a festive student cheering section, claimed the Class C District 95 volleyball final here Thursday night at Charles Greenlund Gymnasium, holding off the Mountaineers 26-24, 25-16, 25-23.
"Gering, she's our senior leader out there, and she had one of her better games tonight," said Ironwood coach Lisa Graham, who thinks it's been at least 15 years since Ironwood won a district championship.
Gering also had two blocks, while Mariah Beaudette added 12 more kills, one block and four aces for the Red Devils.
"Mariah has been our go-to girl, and she played very well too," Graham said.
Ironwood, while slow to start in the match, overmatched Iron Mountain with its firepower as the match progressed. But the young Mountaineers didn't fold easy, using strong serving to keep the match tight.
"We've had strong servers all year, and it's kept us in a lot of matches," Mountaineers coach Jeanne Newberry said.
Marti Pirkola was 13-for-13 serving with seven points. Bri Geyser went 9-for-10 with six points, and Cassie Feira was 11-for-13 with eight points. Pirkola, Geyser (2), Alena Herman and Feira all served aces in the match.
Iron Mountain led the first set by as many as seven points, holding a 20-13 edge before Ironwood found its groove. Beaudette, with a couple a tip shots, helped bring the Red Devils back. Ironwood pulled even at 22-22 thanks to a kill from Sarah Johnson, who finished with seven. Spikes to open holes in the Mountaineer defense by Beaudette, Gering and a second-attempt tip by Emily DiGiorgio ended the set in favor of the Red Devils.
"We were very flat, couldn't get anything rolling off the bat," Graham said. "I tried to call timeout to get them out of that slump, and we were able to get it going."
Ironwood never trailed in the second set. Iron Mountain held close until a kill by Gering made it 18-15 and ignited a late push by the Red Devils. Katie Erickson was key to the Red Devils success, totaling 42 assists in the match.
"She's our quarterback out there giving them the ball," Graham said.
The steady distribution by Erickson helped fuel a strong attack that kept the Mountaineer defense off-balance, and forced a number of errant returns.
"We were a little late in our blocks," Newberry said. "They found the holes."
The final set was tight throughout. An ace by Pirkola had IM out front 21-20, but long hits and miscommunication kept the Mountaineers from forcing a fourth set.
"No. 5 (Gering), she really controlled their team," Newberry said. "She held everything together. She controlled the front row and did a good job talking in the back row."
Anni Cevigney and Alena Herman led Iron Mountain with six kills each.
Iron Mountain loses two seniors in Mandy Haferkorn and Kristen Gendron.
"Gendron was our defensive specialist," Newberry said. "And Mandy was our server. We will miss both them. We did have a young team. We had four sophomores out there at one point. It gives me hope for next year. We had a strong bench, too. That means everything. To finish in the district final from where we came from, I can only see the positive.
"I was proud of my girls at the beginning of the season, and I am still proud of them now."
Ironwood goes to Gladstone Tuesday to face Calumet in a regional semifinal.
"All the girls, it was really a good team effort," Graham said. "We've played some pretty tough teams this season, so hopefully that will help us get through."