The Alpena volleyball team didn't exactly play to its strengths on Wednesday against Traverse City Central as poor serving and serve reception resulted in a loss in four sets, 24-26, 19-25, 25-23 and 19-25.
But where the Wildcats faltered in some areas, they took a step forward in others.
"I told the kids before the game our serving and our serve reception would be our strength, but that was where we had our weakness tonight," Alpena coach Melissa Doubek said. "Overall I'm excited about our blocking and our defense. We've been struggling with some of our young players on defense and blocking and it clicked for them tonight."
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Taylor Genschaw, left, puts a shot over the net as Traverse City Central’s Sierra Fraser (10) and Jessie Kushner jump up to block it during a volleyball match on Wednesday at Alpena High School.
Central's front line of Sierra Fraser, Jessie Kushner, Kiley Kowal and Brie Goodno gave Alpena's defense a lot to handle all night, but the Wildcats did their best to slow or block many of the Trojans' attacks. The defensive efforts of both teams resulted in several long, exciting volleys for points.
Emma Strong had seven blocks for the Wildcats and Ellie Wedge added four to go with three kills. Logan Myers had 23 digs, Isabelle O'Neil had 21 digs and, Taylor Genschaw had 14 digs and Mikaela Overton added eight.
Alpena rallied back in the third set with a five-point run midway through to knot the score at 16. Several attacking errors gave Alpena easy points to knot the set at 20 a few minutes later. After kills from Goodno and Kushner gave the Trojans a 23-20 lead, Alpena took over from there. Wedge scored on a tip and Genschaw had two consecutive aces give Alpena a one-point lead. Myers finished off the set with two kills to give Alpena the win.
Myers led Alpena with 11 kills. Strong added seven kills and Genschaw had eight. Alexis Smith added 25 assists.
The two teams traded points in the fourth set before the Trojans took over down the stretch. A kill from Genschaw knotted the score at 14 and an ace gave Alpena a 17-15 lead a few volleys later. After an 18-all tie, Devon Dotterrer had a kill to give Central the lead for good.
Goodno followed with a tip that managed to elude both Smith and Jordan Modrzynski and the Trojans closed the set and the match with kills from Goodno, Fraser and an ace from Kushner.
Kowal led the Trojans with 15 kills, and Goodno added 14 to go with six digs and two assists. Kushner had 10 kills and 16 assists. Cara Ferguson had nine digs and Mariah Bensley had four.
"Central hit them hard and we were digging them up, so that I was really pleased with. I'm not so happy about our serve reception and our serves, but it's nice to see improvement in those things we've been working on," Doubek said."
Alpena made a rally in the first set and pulled within two points late, but the Trojans closed the set on a 4-0 run which included by a tip by Kowal and a block from Kushner and Carissa Bartkowiak on an attack from Genschaw.
The Trojans jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the second set and kept a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Alpena scored three points late to make the score 23-19 before the Trojans scored the next two points.
Alpena still has some areas to improve on, but Doubek was pleased with the play of her four sophomores-O'Neil, Wedge, Modrzynski and Smith-against the Trojans' hard-hitting offense.
"We've got young sophomores up there blocking varsity players and the speed is a lot different than JV. Those kids, Jordan and Ellie (especially), really stepped up tonight," Doubek said.
Alpena returns to action on Saturday at an invitational at Bay City Central.
The Wildcats' JV team beat Central 25-14 and 25-19. Brianna Clark and Samantha Szymanski had five kills each and Mary Schimmel added 26 assists.
Alpena's freshmen team lost to the Trojans in three sets, 22-25, 25-21 and 16-25.
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.