Wildcats grow weary

Alpena starts strong, falters late in loss to Central

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena’s Madison Murphy (10) prepares to hit the ball over the net as Traverse City Central’s Maddy Goodwin (12) and Jordan Burnham prepare to block the hit during a volleyball match on Wednesday at Alpena High School.

Nearly one month ago, the Alpena High volleyball team earned arguably its biggest victory of the season as it swept Traverse City Central on the road.

The Wildcats fought hard, but couldn’t quite recapture that magic on Wednesday, falling to the Trojans in four sets at Alpena High School; Central won 25-12, 22-25, 25-18 and 25-14.

Alpena played well early on and won a set, but ran out of gas in the final two sets as the Trojans’ front line gave the Wildcats trouble on defense.

“I had higher hopes for the night, but that’s not to say that I didn’t see good tonight. I think that we have made some shifts in our lineup and we’re trying to get used to that,” Alpena coach Stacey McEwen said. “We also had a couple of really solid weeks of volleyball, we’re coming to the end of lost of games. I was hoping not to see it end tonight, but I think we ran out of steam in the third and fourth set.”

Alpena’s best set of the night was the second one, which Alpena won despite a late rally by Central. The Wildcats caught fire early, scoring the sets’ first five points and jumping out to a 10-2 lead. While Alpena struggled early in the night against quick attacks from Central’s front line, the Wildcats took the fight to Central in the second set, playing strong defensively and running their offense well.

The Trojans battled back to within a few points of the lead several times, but the Wildcats were able to stay ahead. Several timely kills from Madison Murphy helped Alpena stay ahead and McEwen also credited the play of freshman Allie DeRocher with sparking Alpena.

“I think in the second set it was great. Our freshman, Allie Derocher. I feel like she came in and really sparked us,” McEwen said. “She had some key blocks and she a couple of key kills and I think that shifted our momentum a little bit.”

With a 23-19 lead late in the set, Central got the ball back after a serving error and scored two points on a pair of kills from Maggie McCrary to make it 23-21. An attacking error gave Alpena the ball, but McCrary recorded another kill to make it 24-22.

An attacking error on the next volley gave Alpena the win after a hard-fought match.

Alpena couldn’t recapture that energy in the final two sets. After the two teams fought back-and-forth early in the third set, Central pulled ahead, turning a 7-7 tie into a 17-9 lead with its offense rolling.

Central got offense from several players on Wednesday with McCrary, Marley Meindertsma, Grace Lord and Katelyn Emmott all contributing kills at different points during the match.

Alpena trailed 24-13 late in the third set, but rallied for five consecutive points to make it 24-18 before Central won its last point.

Central put the pedal down in the final set, storming out to an 11-3 lead that eventually grew to 21-8 before the Trojans finished things off. Many of Alpena’s points came from serving and attacking errors by Central, though the Wildcats rallied for a few points before the end of the match.

Murphy had nine kills and DeRocher had four blocks. Tori Gentry had 20 digs and four aces and Alison Precord and Adrianna Gumtow each had four aces.

Despite the loss, McEwen was encouraged by Alpena’s play. With a young roster that includes a freshman and two sophomores, McEwen has been encouraged in the last few weeks by her team’s competitiveness.

“I think it’s great. We have a young team; I know I’ve said it before, but now we have an even younger team. Even with a loss, we have competitive girls,” McEwen said. “Seeing some of the good things I’m seeing with the young girls we have, I think that’s great. I think it shows the future of Alpena volleyball is good.”