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Wildcats can’t sustain early momentum in loss to Central

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena players Kate Skiba (6) and Tiffany Tessmer (5) attempt to block a kill attempt by Traverse City Central’s Audrey Umstead during a Big North Conference volleyball match at Alpena High School on Thursday.

The Alpena High volleyball team couldn’t keep ahold of momentum on Thursday.

The Wildcats took the first set of a Big North Conference matchup with Traverse City Central, but couldn’t keep up the intensity the rest of the way and ultimately watched the Trojans walk away with a four-set victory.

Alpena won the first set 25-20, but lost the next three, 17-25, 19-25. 17-25.

It’s a bad habit the Wildcats are still trying to break and one they couldn’t quite undo on Thursday.

“We have a habit of coming out on fire and we just have to be able to maintain that pace. That’s been an issue all year long,” Alpena coach Melissa Doubek said. “If we could play the way we do in the first set of every match, we’d be golden.”

The Wildcats did indeed get off to a fast start, building a 9-4 lead in the first set on the back of strong serving and increased the lead to 15-7 and later 23-17 before finishing it off.

Central began to turn the table in the second set, building an early 14-8 lead that was just enough to keep the Alpena at bay. At various points during the rest of the match the Wildcats were able to score in spurts, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a Central offense that kept getting better as the night went on.

Alpena closed the gap to 15-14 midway through the second set, but Central took off again for a 22-15 advantage before winning the set.

The same thing happened in the third set as Alpena fell behind down the stretch and couldn’t catch up. The Wildcats had plenty of chances to attack, but saw many of their kill attempts returned and they had trouble pinning down Central senior Emma Turnquist who, at 6-foot-2, proved to be a tough matchup for Alpena’s defense.

“(Turnquist) got cranked up and she started really attacking the ball. They switched some setters and really just started putting the ball in places where it was perfect for her and made it hard to defend,” Doubek said.

Allie DeRocher had seven kills, 10 digs, a pair of aces and a pair of blocks for the Wildcats; Jade Gray had four kills, nine digs and an ace; Kami Schultz had five kills and three digs; Kate Skiba had seven kills, 16 digs and four aces; Emilee Spomer had four digs and two aces; and Allie Urlaub had three kills, four digs and two aces.

Central got the jump on Alpena again in the final set, building nine-point leads three different times. Alpena rallied for a pair of late points to make it 23-17, but Central scored the next two points to end the match.

Alpena hosts Gaylord on Wednesday. The Wildcats defeated the Blue Devils in four sets earlier this month in Gaylord.

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