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Wildcats earn hard-fought victory over Gaylord

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Tiffany Tessmer (5) tips a ball past Gaylord’s Morgan Monchilov (9) during the second set of a Big North Conference volleyball match on Wednesday at Alpena High School.

The Alpena High volleyball team has had its share of struggles in Big North Conference play.

But entering Wednesday, the Wildcats had one conference victory and it was against Gaylord, who the Wildcats welcomed on Wednesday.

Having already beaten the Blue Devils once and playing in front of a home crown on Senior Night, it was more than enough motivation for the Wildcats (9-8, 2-4 BNC) to come out and win.

The Wildcats swept the regular season series against Gaylord by defeating the Blue Devils 25-13, 11-25, 25-22 and 25-17.

“I was very proud of our kids. It was a typical night for us, we came out in the first set on fire and then let down, but we’ve talked about it the last two weeks, we have to find a way to pick back up and play hard until the end and I’m very proud that they were able to do that tonight,” Alpena coach Melissa Doubek said.

The Wildcats were in complete control after cruising to a lopsided victory in the first set to open the match.

Gaylord responded with a dominant performance of its own in the second set to tie the match at one game apiece.

The Wildcats regrouped and scored the first four points to open the third set, but nothing came easy as Gaylord evened the score 10-10 and the two teams exchanged points and went back and forth.

With both teams deadlocked at 21, the third set had that pivotal feeling in that of the winner of the set would eventually win the match.

That proved true as the Wildcats scored four straight points to close out the third set and take the lead in the match.

“I’m very happy that the kids made the necessary adjustments that we talked about against Gaylord’s defense and offense. We were able to do that tonight and I’m proud of the way they played,” Doubek said. “It was a hard-fought match and Gaylord showed a lot of heart. They’ve definitely improved, but so have we so it was nice to see.”

Gaylord opened up a 5-1 lead in the fourth set, but the Wildcats stormed back with five unanswered points to take the lead.

The Blue Devils did all they could to put pressure on Alpena as they responded with four consecutive points to regain the lead.

Gaylord held an 11-9 lead before the Wildcats took control behind sensational serving from Allie Urlaub, who served six unanswered points to give Alpena a 16-11 lead midway through the set.

Despite trailing 18-12, Gaylord made one final attempt to send a game to a fifth set as the Blue Devils scored four straight points of their own to cut the lead to two, but Alpena answered and held a 20-17 lead before closing the match out in style with the final six points including a game-ending ace from Kami Schultz.

The Wildcats were led by their four seniors in the win.

Allie DeRocher finished the night with 20 digs, 12 kills, three blocks and a pair of assists. Kate Skiba tallied 25 digs to go with five kills and four aces. Jade Gray had eight digs, seven kills and dished out two assists and Kayla Haken added six digs.

“With young ladies and Senior Night it’s always tough because there’s always so many emotions and you never know what they’re going to do when they go out on the floor, but these seniors are the strength of this team. They are the heart and they play tough,” Doubek said. “We really needed to be able to show that we could not only come out strong, but finish strong and I think this is a good win for us tonight.”

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