When a volleyball match comes down to a fifth game, it's always better to be the winner than the loser.
So even though Alpena head coach Melissa Doubek was expecting a little bit more out of her team on Monday, she had reason to be happy after the Wildcats rallied to top Gaylord in five games at Alpena High School, by scores of 21-25, 25-16, 15-25, 25-23 and 15-11.
Brenna Bourdage had 23 kills and 18 digs and Ami Milligan added 44 assists and five aces for Alpena, which was coming off a second-place finish at the Essexville-Garber Tournament over the weekend.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Brenna Bourdage spikes the ball during the first game of a Big North Conference match against Gaylord on Monday at Alpena High School. Bourdage had 23 kills as the Wildcats won in five games.
The two teams battled in the final game, but Alpena pulled out to an 8-4 lead. Gaylord battled back and eventually tied the game at 10 after some mistakes by Alpena. After Doubek called a timeout, Alpena came out with a fury, ending the game on a 5-1 streak which included a kill and a tip by Bourdage and a pair of blocks by the Wildcats.
Doubek was confident in her team even as the final game of the night got close.
"I knew that if we want to five and we were with them part way through, emotionally we were the more composed team," Doubek said. "(Gaylord's) a tough team, but they do get a little emotional at the end, so I felt confident my girls could pull it out."
Trailing 2-1 entering the fourth game, Alpena took an early 7-3 lead, but watched Gaylord rally back to tie and the Blue Devils kept on the attack the rest of the way. Alpena took a commanding 21-14 lead with Milligan serving two aces during an 8-1 run. Gaylord was down, but not out and cut Alpena's lead to three, two and later one after kills from Tanner Arkfield and Brooke Stier made the score 24-23. After a timeout however, Alpena netted the final point to knot the match at two.
Alpena struggled at times with its serve reception as the Blue Devils proved to be adept at tipping the ball just out of reach of Alpena defenders. Gaylord used this strategy to great effect in the third game and ended the game on a 6-0 run after the Wildcats had trouble getting in sync.
Doubek might have been expecting the Wildcats to have a little easier time with Gaylord, but was pleased to see the Wildcats make adjustments and ultimately emerge from the match as the victor.
"It wasn't quite was I was expecting after we played really tough over the weekend. I was expecting a little bit more out of my team," Doubek said. "But I'm happy to get the win. We went down to the wire and the kids were able to keep their composure, come back."
Alpena did a nice job of hustling on every play in the opening game, but found itself out of position many times, allowing Gaylord to score easy points. Though Alpena led most of the game, Gaylord steadily chipped away at the lead and eventually overtook the Wildcats.
The Wildcats trailed early in the second game, but rallied back and closed out the game with a pair of kills from Emma Strong and an ace from Alie Sherwin.
Taylor Genschaw had 12 kills and 14 digs for Alpena; Strong had nine kills and Mikaela Overton added 16 digs.
Oscoda 3, Alcona 1
OSCODA-The Alcona volleyball team dropped a nonconference match against Oscoda on Thursday, losing in four games, 19-25, 13-25, 25-23 and 24-26.
Carly Mitchell had four aces and seven digs for the Tigers; Karina Cole added seven kills and three blocks. Nicole Smith had 18 assists and Sam Zerbst had seven digs.
Alcona hosts Fairview in a varsity-only match tonight at 6 p.m.