BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — The game ended in the hands of Traverse City West senior Lauren Ellison.
In her final regular-season match and perhaps the last time against rival Traverse City Central, the Titan mainstay came on and closed out West's 25-15, 25-10, 25-14 victory.
A three-year varsity player who lost her starting spot this season, Ellison landed a spike for a 24-14 lead in the third game and then finished off the victory with an ace.
"It felt really good," Ellison said. "This season has been really hard for me. It was really nice to end the game with that ace. I went back to the line, and I was like, 'I really want to get this last point for myself,' so I did."
The victory wrapped up a season sweep of Central (20-16-4, 6-6 Big North Conference) for the Titans (25-14-1, 10-2 BNC).
The two teams can meet up again in districts if each wins its opening-round match Tuesday in Gaylord. The Trojans face Marquette and West takes on Alpena, with the semifinals and finals both on Nov. 3 at Gaylord.
"We don't know too much about them," Central coach Katherine Brege said of Marquette. "I told our girls, hopefully we'll see (West) again next Saturday as well to take another hard shot at it where we can pass the ball a lot better and do some better things on the court.
"We look forward to seeing them again. It's always great competition to play them."
Central jumped out to leads in each of Wednesday's three games — 4-2, 3-0 and 3-0 — but each time the Titans had a response.
"Every game we came out with a lead and we just couldn't hold it," Brege said. "They have some tough servers, and we really struggled passing tonight on serve receive, as well as on defensive passing."
The Trojans held a 12-10 lead in the first game before a 10-0 run on Courtney VanHouzen's serve. Katie Placek accounted for three kills and a stuff block in the run that gave West control, and Mattison Mokanyk closed it out with an ace.
"We started very slow," West coach Emily Baumann said. "We decided to start making errors in every game at the very beginning. It took us awhile to start clicking. Our serves were on, which definitely helped us, because it saved us a little bit, I have to say. Just starting slow, which is not normally like us. We normally start pretty fast in conference."
The Trojans started with another lead in the second game, getting out to an 9-6 lead before West once again turned it on with a 14-0 spurt. Van Houzen later closed out the game with an ace — as the Titans did in each game.
"We kind of had a slow start to each of our games," said VanHouzen, one of West's six seniors. "But I was proud of our team that we really came together and were like, 'OK, enough of that.' And we just hammered out the points for a win."
Central led 3-0 in the third game on a Lauren Lozowski tip, but West reeled off five straight points and never trailed again, churning out 17 points to Central's six down the stretch to set up Ellison's closer.
"We had a little fight in us," Baumann said. "We were able to come back, even though we weren't playing very well. But we were able to come back. We didn't have the energy I'm used to from our group. But we got our feet to the ball and definitely picked some up that we needed, so it saved us and the defense picked us up some."
Mokanyk had 31 assists for the Titans, while VanHouzen had five aces and 15 digs, Placek put up 11 kills and 15 digs, Anna O'Hara slammed 16 kills and Megan Traines had 10 digs.
Central was led by Leah Potter (11 digs), Kiley Kowal (five kills, one block), Paige Emmott (five digs), Jessie Kushner (three kills), Lozowski (two kills, one block) and Maddy Duensing (12 assists).
The Titans won the junior varsity contest 25-17, 25-18, 26-24 to close out an undefeated Big North slate at 28-3-1 overall and 12-0 in league play. West was led by Jodi Turnquist (nine kills, 10 digs, four aces), Kelly O'Hara (10 assists, 10 digs, three kills, one block), Leah Skeels (18 digs) and Carley Drzewiecki (eight kills, five digs, two aces, two assists, one block). Central was led by Hannah Nordeen (eight kills), Emily Jenkins (11 assists), Allie Little and Sierra Fraser (five kills, one block).
The Trojans won the freshman contest 25-22, 25-19, 13-25, led by Abigail Green, Julianna Chang and Isabel Lutz to finish the season with two victories in three meetings with the Titans and only two losses for the season. West (9-4 BNC) was led by Olivia Bishop (four kills, four aces), Chloe Slack (two aces, three kills) and Marie Savoie (two blocks).