LELAND — Three matches.
It was far from easy for the Traverse City Central volleyball team, however.
The Trojans took down Traverse City St. Francis, Leland and Traverse City Christian at Thursday’s Leland Quad, but two of the matches went the full three games as Central got quite a battle in action that proved to be pretty evenly matched between the four schools.
Central defeated St. Francis 25-23, 25-18, then got all it could handle from Leland, winning 16-25, 25-20, 16-14, and had early trouble with Christian before winning 23-25, 25-19, 15-4.
St. Francis won two of three matches, beating Christian 25-13, 25-20 and Leland 25-17, 19-25, 15-6. Leland’s win came in its first match against the Sabres, 25-12, 25-18.
“Without having our setter (Devin Dotterrer) in a 5-1, I’m real happy my girls stepped up,” said Central coach Mike Kelly. “They have some talent and they rode it.”
With Dotterrer out of the state for a family wedding, Callie Bartkowiak stepped up and had 65 assists. The Trojans (20-12-2) showed their power at the net as well, with Kiley Kowal recording 36 kills, Sierra Fraser 33, Carissa Bartkowiak 32 and Jessie Kuchner 31.
Central’s match against Leland was the most intense of the night, with the two teams having to come from behind to get wins and a third game that went right down to the wire. Kelly and Leland coach Laurie Glass both admitted it took a lot out of their teams heading into the third and final matches of the night. Central dropped its first game against Christian — the one game the Sabres (16-16-8) won on the night — and battled neck-and-neck for most of the second game before Central assumed control. Likewise, Leland dropped its first game against St. Francis. The Comets took game two and St. Francis rebounded to take game three.
“I thought we were really gaming in the TC Central match when we were down and came back, so that was a good booster,” said Glass. “I think we expended a lot of energy in that match and came out a little flat in this one (versus St. Francis). But, you know, we battled back again and came back and won that second game. So when you can go three (games) with quality opponents I think that’s a great night.
“It was a hard-fought match (with Central). That’s the kind of thing you want to do, win or lose. I’d rather play that match over and over and over again than against somebody I can beat easily.”
Kelly felt his team was able to take something away from the match as well, despite being a much larger school than Leland.
“Leland, as usual, with Laurie coaching, they’re just really good. The energy level that they have is one I’d like to get my team up to,” he said. “They have a great energy level and it was really fun. We had to work for all three (wins).”
Kelly said he could tell right away his team was emotionally spent from the Leland match when it took the court against a Christian team determined to come up with a win.
“We walked out here and I looked at my assistant coach and said, ‘we’re in trouble,’” he said. “We just left it all in that gym and lost the first game and there was not very much effort. You win a match like that and it’s hard to get up for the next one. Even though we were the winners of it we didn’t bring it into this gym.”
St. Francis (26-13-1) lost its first match to Central, but didn’t lose again, with the only bump in the road coming in game two against Leland.
“Got better as the day went on,” said St. Francis co-coach Rita Jones. “We tried some new things today and it was a little rough at the start, but the girls showed some tenacity and just kept fighting and working on things. By the end of the day we finished strong.”
“We finally put it together,” co-coach Heather Simpson. “We finished a game. That was a goal.”
Leaders for St. Francis were: Madeline Rysztak (18 kills, 19 digs), Sophie Spencer (nine kills), Nicole Ehardt (13 digs) and Megan Knudsen (41 assists).
Leading Leland (22-12-8) were: Noa Yaakoby (28 kills, four aces, 10 digs), Maddie Trumbull (15 kills, two blocks), Whitney Schaub (23 digs), Heather Burns (four aces, three blocks), Caitlin McKee (65 assists, 14 digs), Felicia Whitaker (19 kills, seven aces, two blocks) and Miranda Harrison (five aces, 12 digs).