By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - Kingsford nearly let one get away here Thursday night.
Theresa Proudfit/The Daily News Photo
Kingsford’s Mariah Wiltzius fires over the block of Gladstone’s Mackenzie Pardonnet during Thursday’s Great Northern Conference volleyball action.
A point away from losing a five-set match in which they led two sets to none and held a 19-13 lead in set three, the Flivvers frantically rallied in the waning moments to steal what would have been a stunning comeback victory from Gladstone.
Kingsford persevered 27-25, 25-22, 25-27, 12-25, 16-14 in the thrilling Great Northern Conference volleyball match.
"This was not just a good volleyball moment, it was a good life moment," Flivvers coach Steve Andrews said. "When we attacked, we stayed in control, but there were times where the fear of making a mistake was greater than the desire to win."
Kingsford fell behind 14-11 in the decisive fifth set after a back-row kill from Gladstone's Jessica Beaudry, the match leader with 24 kills. But Lillian Slajus got one back for the Flivvers, finding a hole in the middle of the floor.
Next it was Gladstone's Breanne Aird slamming one across. Flivver libero Amber Larson dug up the heater and momentum carried the ball back over the net where it dropped in for another Flivver point.
Then it was Mariah Wiltzius' turn to step up for Kingsford. She tipped over Gladstone's blockers to knot the match at 14, and followed with solid solo block to make it 15-14 Flivvers. A long attack by Gladstone ended the match.
"I lit them up in Game 5 and told them they have to attack the ball," Andrews said. "They can't back their way through the finish line. I couldn't script it any better in practice, and we got the win out of it."
The frantic finish saved what would have been a major disappointment for the Flivvers. After losing a 19-13 lead in set three and then getting pounded in set four, the Braves basically controlled the final set, leading by as many as four at one point.
"When we stopped attacking, they just hammered it down at us," Andrews said. "Gladstone has got a good team."
Lauren Smith's 13 kills led Kingsford. She also had two solo and one assisted block. Wiltzius finished with 10 kills, while Slajus and Emily Murdock each had seven.
It was Wiltzius and Smith who helped Kingsford late in a tight first set. Gladstone led 25-24 in the set which was within a point most of the way. Wiltzius fired a kill from the outside to tie it and then Smith connected for the lead.
Behind the serving of Sammie Zander, Kingsford spurted out to an 8-1 lead in set two. It proved just enough to help the Flivvers hold off the charging Braves. With Lexi Hongisto, who had 15 kills, and Beaudry heating up as the set wore on, the Braves closed to within three points of the Flivvers at 21-17 and again at 23-20. An ace by Summer Demeuse brought Gladstone within two at 24-22, but an error on the Gladstone side of the net gave the Flivvers the win.
Murdock's heavy hits from the outside helped Kingsford take the lead early in set three. Gladstone closed the gap just as quick with four straight aces by Callie Jensen. An ace by Slajus brought Kingsford back to a 10-10 tie. She hit another to put the Flivvers ahead, and then contributions from Sammie Lindeman, Murdock, Sammie Zander and Wiltzius seemingly sent Kingsford on its way.
But a blocking error on the Flivvers slowed the tide. A few more Flivver errors tightened things even more before Beaudry went to work. She pounded four kills down the stretch that helped Gladstone tie the set at 24-24. The Flivvers misfired from there, and the match was extended.
In the fourth, it was Beaudry and Aird trading kills during a push that saw the Braves build a 12-5 cushion. A couple of kills from Hongisto and a tip from Mackenzie Pardonnet expanded the margin as the Braves easily rolled into the final set with all the momentum on their side.
"It's always an exciting match," Braves coach Liz Gendron said. "We just have to make smarter choices. There were times where we weren't moving our feet or getting our hips in front of the ball. And our passing wasn't as good as last week when we were on a roll.
"Kingsford has a strong middle. We tried to double block her, but she did very well. They just out hustled us."
Kingsford upped its league record to 4-2 and plays at Menominee Monday.
Summary (digs not available):
Mackenzie Pardonnet - 1 kill; Summer Demeuse - 2 aces; Lexi Hongisto - 15 kills, 2 aces; Breanne Aird - 3 kills, 2 aces; Kenly Milam - 3 aces; Jessica Beaudry - 24 kills, 4 aces, 2 blocks; Callie Jensen - 4 kills, 4 aces.
Emily Murdock - 7 kills, 1 ace; Sammie Zander - 4 kills, 3 aces; Abby Michaud - 1 ace; Mariah Wiltzius - 10 kills, 1 block; Sammie Lindeman - 2 kills; Lillian Slajus - 7 kills, 3 aces, 1 block assist; Lauren Smith - 13 kills, 2 blocks, 1 block assist; Amber Larson - 1 ace.