Alpena volleyball team hosting quad

The Alpena volleyball team is hosting its annual quad tournament today at 4 pm, an event that usually pits Alpena, Cheboygan, Tawas and Rogers City against each other in tight competition.

However, Rogers City had to bow out this year due their new commitments in the North Star League, but Alpena found a worthy replacement in Onaway.

“I think the girls are looking forward to playing some tough class A teams. It should be a good challenge for us and I know I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Onaway coach Steve Watson said.

This is the first year Onaway has attended the quad. The Cardinals are coming into the tournament off a stellar 2012 year, that saw them make it to the class D semifinals for the first time in school history.

Traditionally, the quad is a great way for Alpena to get in some practice, play some great teams and show off its skills.

“There have been a few years where we have lost a match and a few where we lost two. Generally, we’re at or near the top every year,” Alpena coach Melissa Doubek said.

Alpena is down four of their top players from last year: hard hitting Brenna Bourdage; consistent setter Ami Milligan; middle-hitter Nicole Ross and defensive linchpin Alie Sherwin.

However, Alpena’s talent is spread a bit more evenly amongst its ranks this year, with five seniors, one junior and four sophomores. Skilled players like sophomore Isabelle O’Neil and seniors Logan Myers and Mikaela Overton could make a big impact in an even tournament playing field.

“The teams this year are very, very balanced. I wouldn’t say there is a clear leader, and I’m expecting a very long day of balanced play from every team. Every match is going to be a huge competition for all four teams,” Doubek said. Each team will play nine straight games, with little chance to rest.

Alpena and Onaway traditionally face each other in a scrimmage game once a year. However, these games are so casual that score isn’t even kept.

“I’m not sure about Onaway. They had a good season last year, but we’ve never really competed against them seriously. I have no idea what to anticipate from them,” Doubek said.

Onaway has more experience with Cheboygan, having played and beaten the Chiefs in a tournament in Pellston. The Cardinals also regularly scrimmage Cheboygan, while some of the girls play club volleyball with Cheboygan players.

“It’s really great to get the chance to play some high quality volleyball teams, only an hour from home. There aren’t many opportunities around here to do that,” Watson said.

Onaway is a lot like Alpena, in that they have a very balanced team, with few truly dominate players. However, Mariah Ehrke always puts up big offensive numbers for the Cardinals, as does Lexi Szymoniak, while Sarah Fullerton often leads the way defensively.

“We’re a pretty solid team and we’ve been around some big teams. We had a tournament on Thursday in Cadillac, that was probably the hardest tournament this school has ever been to. We played Chippewa Hills, a class B 2012 state final four team, Cadillac and Midland. We went three sets with all of them and beat Midland,” Watson said.

Eric Benac can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.