GRAYLING — Once Traverse City West grabbed the momentum from Midland Dow early in Tuesday’s Class A volleyball regional semifinal at Grayling High School, the Titans never gave it back.
West shook off a sluggish start that resulted in a 25-16 loss in the opening game to take three straight games in convincing fashion, 25-20, 25-21, 25-17, propelling the Titans into Thursday’s regional championship match.
Right off the bat, the Titans struggled with the accuracy of their attacks on offense, while their defense was unable to cover the Chargers’ big hitters. That led to a good pep talk from head coach Emily Baumann. Those words changed the complexion of the match as West came out looking like a different team in the next three games.
“I just said, ‘We are such a better team than this and we need to get on our game and play some volleyball,’” Baumann said of the talk she gave her team after the first game. “We were just very hesitant, looking at each other like, ‘you take it, no you take it,’ instead of being aggressive and going after it and taking it ourselves. It was just a little bit of nerves. It just took us a second to get into it and take off with it. We were just hesitant on defense, but we weren’t swinging it on offense. It was definitely a combination of both.”
Alyson Peters spearheaded the effort by the Titans’ defense, as they started diving into the open spaces on the floor and digging up Dow’s attacks. Peters led West with 19 digs, while Mattison Mokanyk and Mikenna Ray each had 12 digs.
“Coming into that second game we were thinking we have to push, we have to play our game,” said Peters. “The first game was shaky, but the second game we brought it.”
Peters said she felt the momentum shift to West’s side right after it emerged from the team huddle right before the second game began.
“Talking to our team, taking a breather, we came out and played our hardest,” said Peters. “We’ve never seen this team before. It’s a brand new team. We had no idea what they looked like, but we worked it out.”
Anna O’Hara and Katie Placek started slamming down kills as West got its offense going. Both had 21 kills to lead the Titans’ effort. Kimmy Bilinski added nine kills, Kelsey Boudjalis had seven kills and Olivia Bishop had six kills to complement the West attack.
“Our offense was awesome today. Anna and Katie were hitting like crazy. We did so good on our outside hitting,” said Peters.
Mokanyk set up West’s hitters with 55 assists.
After setting the tone for the rest of the night with the big win in the second game, the Titans were on the brink of taking the third game — leading 23-16 — but had to withstand a late flurry of points by the Chargers, who got the score within 23-21, before West took the next two points to hold a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Titans started the fourth game with an 8-0 lead and never looked back, redeeming themselves from a quick exit in last year’s regional round.
“It feels awesome because last year we just never got it together,” said Baumann. “It never flowed as a team. This team is so awesome and I’m so proud of them. It feels so good to come in and play at the level that we can play at, instead of just letting someone roll over us.”
The Titans meet Flushing in the regional final at Mount Pleasant High School. The Raiders swept host Davison in the other semifinal.