MANISTIQUE — Divisions 2, 3 and 4 went 1-2-3 in regional final volleyball action Thursday night.

In roughly the same time frame area volleyball teams, Kingsley (D2), Traverse City St. Francis (D3) and Leland (D4) each won regional champions via sweep.

The Gladiators had the longest road trip of them all, facing the host school at Manistique — some 209 miles away in the Upper Peninsula.

St. Francis edged the Emeralds in a back-and-forth first game, 27-25, stealing the momentum early and cruising to a 27-25, 25-18, 25-17 victory.

"Our first set was so important for us to win, to set precedent against a school in their home school," St. Francis head coach Mark Witczak said. "It wasn't favorable. The girls calmed down. The energy level stayed up and we started to play a little better defense. That changed the game all the way around for us."

The Gladiators' defense at the net, in particular, stood out.

Lauren Tocco recorded a match-high 10 blocks, while teammate Brenna Poole added seven.

"That changes the whole tone of the game," Witczak said. "That was one particular thing we worked on in practice, reading the body and arm slot and getting in position to get that block."

St. Francis jumped out to a comfortable lead in the second set and never trailed. The third set went very much the same way.

"It was quite intense in that building," Witczak said. "They had a packed crowd and that team had a lot of energy."

St. Francis last won a regional championship in 2016. Now, the Gladiators will face Beal City in Cadillac on Tuesday with a trip to Battle Creek and the state semifinals on the line.

"We're going to try to put some feelers out there to see if anybody has tape (of Beal City)," Witczak said. "If not, we'll stick to what we do and make adjustments on the fly.

"It's always better to have some tape and maybe word of mouth, but if you don't have it you do what you have to do."

Hannah Sidorowicz dished 31 assists and posted 10 digs for St. Francis. Kaylin Pool had 11 kills and 12 digs. Brenna Poole added eight kills to her block total. Maddie Connolly made nine digs. Molly Mirabelli posted a team-high 23 kills and made 12 digs.

Sports Reporter

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