Positive steps forward

Although the Alpena volleyball team dropped three sets (25-9, 25-12, 25-19) to Traverse City West on Wednesday, coach Melissa Doubek saw signs of great play from her team.

“I know there’s a big score difference, but that last set was the most competitive I’ve seen them play against TC West in years. They were really competitive and they played really hard. The younger players learned how to time those high speed attacks and the back row seniors really stepped up defensively and offensively,” she said.

The Wildcats jumped to a 3-2 lead in the third set, helped by a well-timed set by Emma Strong, that popped over the heads of the Titans’ blockers and a kill by Taylor Genschaw.

Strong had six kills on the night, while Genschaw had five kills and six digs.

The Titans pulled into a 5-3 lead, but Alpena matched them point for point for most of the set. Logan Myers picked up a kill during a two-point Titan streak to narrow the lead to 8-6.

Myers had five kills, 12 digs and three serving aces for Alpena.

However, TC West’s Anna O’Hara knocked down a kill and blocked a few shots to help the Titans pull away from the Wildcats. After a Katie Placek kill put West ahead 11-8, the Titans scored four straight points during the serves of Alyson Peters to take a 15-8 lead.

Placek had 12 kills and 19 digs for the Titans, O’Hara had 10 kills and five digs and Peters had 10 digs.

After regaining the serve, Alpena’s defense pulled up off some long volleys to keep the ball alive. It continued to pluck away at the Titans’ offense, snagging a point here and there, to stay within striking distance.

At 17-11, Alexis Smith picked up a block that gave Alpena the serve. A mix of diving plays and focused passing helped the Cats stay close. Ellie Wedge picked up a kill at 18-12 to help narrow the spread. It was her sole kill for the night.

Smith picked up nine digs and 13 assists.

At 21-16, Myers served for three points, and picked up two aces, to pull Alpena to a 21-18 spread. Alpena continued to answer the Titans back on a nearly point-by-point basis, but the Titans were able to put it away 25-19.

The Wildcats were less successful in the first two sets. The Titans picked up a quick 11-5 lead in the first. Kelsey Boudjalis then served during six straight Titan points, to give her team a 16-6 lead.

Although Alpena players like Mikaela Overton and Jordan Modrzynski attempted to keep their team in the set with spikes and diving saves, the Titans early lead was too much for it to overcome in a 25-9 loss.

Overton had seven digs while Isabelle O’Neil had five for the night. Overton had two kills.

The second set showed signs of improvement for the Wildcats, even though the Titans started fast with a 6-2 lead. Strong and Genschaw attempted to balance power spike attacks with light tip strikes to keep the Titans off balance.

The Titans’ defense reacted quickly to most of these attacks and countered them to create longer, successful volleys. The Wildcats started answering the Titans back serve-for-serve, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the initial lead and Alpena fell 25-12.

“We played really strong in the first two sets, we talked a lot and communicated well. After such a long bus drive, it’s nice to come out and play so strongly,” Titans coach Emily Baumann said.

Alpena plays at Cadillac Monday.

The Wildcats’ freshmen team picked up a win against the Titans. They won 25-13 and 25-18, but dropped the third set 25-22. Jessica Marwede picked up seven aces and five kills, while Brooke Paczkowski had five aces.

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