After a long, tough regular season, volleyball districts are here again and local volleyball teams will be jockeying for one of three district championship spots.
The Alpena volleyball team may face the toughest challenge of any other team. Its Big North Conference opponents include teams as tough as Marquette, Traverse City West, Central, and Petoskey.
Alpena hosts TC West tonight at 6:00 p.m.
"They're going to be a tough opponent. We just got to work hard and dig it up. We played them competitively when we faced them two weeks ago," Alpena coach Melissa Doubek said.
Alpena has faced West two other times this year. Although they lost both matches, they had some tight sets, including a 25-22 third set in their last match up.
The Titans have a few core players that Alpena will need to shut down for the win.
Volleyball district schedule
Class A playoffs
Traverse City?West at Alpena, 6 p.m. tonight
Sault Ste. Marie at Petoskey, 6 p.m. tonight
Traverse City?Central at Gaylord, 6 p.m. tonight
Traverse City?West/Alpena winner at Marquette, 6 p.m. Thursday
Sault Ste. Marie/Petoskey winner vs. Gaylord/Traverse City?Central Winner, 6 p.m. Thursday
At Rogers City
Hillman vs Posen, 6 p.m. tonight
Onaway vs. Wolverine, 6 p.m. Wednesday
Hillman/Posen winner vs.?Rogers City, 7:45 p.m.?Wednesday
Championship, 6 p.m. Friday
Tawas vs. Whittemore-Prescott, 5 p.m. tonight
Oscoda vs. Alcona, 6:30 p.m., tonight
Tawas/Whittemore winner vs. Houghton Lake, 5 p.m. Wednesday
Oscoda/Alcona winner vs.?Mio, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Championship, 6 p.m. Friday
"They have two outside hitters that get on the ball and they're really tough hitters. They have a girl, Katie Placek, that just picked up her 1,000th dig. She's an all around great player, and we're going to have to work around her block if we want to win," Doubek said.
Alpena has a solid crew of starters and bench players that include veteran players such as seniors Logan Myers and Taylor Genschaw along with sophomores such as Isabelle O'Neil and Ellie Wedge.
The Cats utilize a balanced attack that requires all players to be on top of their game.
"My players all have their different roles. We have outside hitters like Taylor (Genschaw) and Logan (Myers). They have to be on because they're important in our offensive game. Our young sophomores got to kick it into high gear. They've had the experience now and we're going to need solid digging from those back row players," Doubek said.
If Alpena wins, they will travel to Marquette for the second round on Thusrsday. Marquette's first round is a bye.
Up in Rogers City, four North Star League teams will be duking it out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the chance to move on to regionals: Hillman, Posen, Rogers City and Onaway.
Onaway (44-8-3) won the district final last year and made it to the state semi-finals before being defeated. They also swept Posen and Rogers City in three sets apiece in the Presque Isle Championship on Wednesday.
The Cardinals are currently ranked number three in the state for class D volleyball. It has a first round bye, and faces Wolverine in the second round on Wednesday.
Rogers City (34-9-1) also has a first round bye, and faces the winner of the Posen and Hillman first round match up on Monday.
The Tigers and Vikings are an evenly matched team and should create an exciting first round experience.
"I think the Posen and Hillman match will be excellent. I think it will be anybody's game. Anything can happen in a match, but for us, it's good not to have to face Onaway in the first round," Rogers City coach Jackie Quaine said.
The Hurons are currently ranked seventh in the state in class D volleyball.
Rogers City has faced and lost twice to Onaway this season, but played them close in the Presque Isle Championship match up, losing 25-20, 25-21 and 15-13.
"We were nip and tuck with them for all the games, all three, right there with them neck and neck. We missed nine serves and we can't give a team like Onaway those free points. We got to tighten down on that and cover our tips better," Quaine said.
If Rogers City faces Onaway in the district finals, they will have to face the power hitting of Mariah Ehrke. Ehrke is an All-State player that regularly leads her team in kills. She recently picked up 21 kills and 25 digs in the Presque Isle Championship.
"Mariah (Ehrke) is the big gun for them right now. I don't think she really overpowered us. I thought we dug her well. Our blocking is a big plus for us right now," Quaine said.
Rogers City has a few weapons of their own, including Jena Tulgestke, Courtney Streich and Cassidy Purgiel. Tulgestke led Rogers City in the Presque Isle Championship with 13 kills and four blocks. Streich had 11 kills.
The Alcona volleyball team will face up against some tough competitors in Oscoda. They will face Oscoda on Monday and, if they win, will face Mio in the second round on Wednesday.
In the same tournament, Tawas faces Whittemore-Prescott on Monday. The winner of this round will face Houghton Lake on Wednesday.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.