GLADSTONE - It was a long bus ride to Delta County and a short stay in the Class C regional volleyball tournament for the Ironwood Red Devils as they fell to the Calumet Copper Kings 25-22, 25-11, 25-7 in Tuesday's opener.
The Copper Kings needed just 55 minutes to seal the verdict as they seized the momentum behind an eight-point service run by junior Catherine Frantti for a 9-2 lead in the second set.
"Calumet is definitely a tough team," said Ironwood coach Lisa Graham. "They have some big hitters. I was impressed with the way our girls came out strong and stayed with them in the first set. That give them some confidence. It's unfortunate we couldn't play that way the entire match."
The victory enables the defending champions to return to the Gladstone High School gym for Thursday's title match against Gwinn, which eliminated St. Ignace 25-18, 25-20, 27-25 in Tuesday's nightcap.
Ironwood, making its first regional appearance in 11 years, led 2-1 in the second set prior to Frantti's run.
"I don't think we came out with the fire we wanted," said Calumet coach Lisa Twardzik. "We were a little tight. Catherine was a strong server in the second set. She hit nine points and six were aces. She helped the whole team loosen up."
Calumet, fueled on a five-point run by senior Loretta Anderson, gained a 6-0 cushion in the finale before the Red Devils got on the board on junior Mariah Beaudette's kill for a sideout.
Ironwood was still within 7-3 following a net violation by Calumet. The Red Devils, however, were unable to get any closer.
In the opener, the Red Devils trailed only 22-21 after senior Jessica Gering's block on Anderson.
Calumet then scored three of the last four points, securing that set on Anderson's kill.
"We just have to stay in system," said Twardzik. "I like the fact we're not depending on just 2-3 hitters. We have strong hitters in every rotation."
Seniors Alisa Storm and Pam Torola led the Copper Kings at the net with six kills each. Anderson finished with five and junior Lexie Rowe had four.
Frantti finished with seven service aces. Torola added four and Anderson and senior Morgan Yeo had three apiece.
Torola and Frantti were the defensive leaders with 12 digs each and Yeo had 10.
Gering collected five kills and three blocks, including back-to-back kills which gave Ironwood an 11-9 lead in the first set. Beaudette finished with three kills and a block and junior Sarah Johnson had two kills.
"We have a very young team," said Graham. "With this being our first regional appearance in 11 years, none of our girls knew what this was all about. If we had some nerves, it didn't show right away. We lost a lot of seniors last year. Not too many people thought we'd make it this far. Overall, our season went very well."
Calumet - Frantti (seven aces, 12 digs); Torola (four aces, six kills, 12 digs); Anderson (three aces, five kills, three digs); Yeo (three aces, 10 digs); Rowe (one ace, four kills, three digs); Storm (six kills, one dig); Budreau (two kills, five digs); Twardzik (two kills, one dig); Peters (one dig).
Ironwood - Gering (five kills, three blocks); Beaudette (three kills, one block); Johnson (two kills).