West's Ray commits to Albion

Record-Eagle file photo/Jan-Michael StumpTraverse City West's Mikenna Ray (13) stops the ball as Traverse City Central's Jalyna Cisneros (7) approaches in a game last spring. Ray has committed to play college soccer at Albion.

TRAVERSE CITY — Albion College had several extra recruiters in its pursuit of Traverse City standout defender Mikenna Ray.

Namely, her sister.

Ray committed to play for the Britons next season and hopes to continue Traverse City's recent streak of starters at the school.

"When I was looking at colleges and where I wanted to go, I didn't want to stay away from going to the same school as her, but I wanted to find my own options first and see where it went from there," Mikenna said. "I visited the school and my sister has had a great experience there."

Mikaela Ray started all 21 games last year as a freshman as the Britons posted an 11-6-4 record with a team that didn't have a single senior under second-year coach Eric Scott.

It also didn't hurt that Mikenna would be playing in front of the same goaltender as in high school, Maggie Troost.

"He was trying ... his best (to) have me come there," Mikenna said. "Maggie was trying to have me come in because I was her defender her senior year. And Mikaela was my midfielder in front of me when we were playing. Maggie called us 'The Wall' and wanted us to be back together again in college."

Troost started 18 of 21 games for the Britons last season, and Traverse City Central alum Lauren Bensley started all 21 games at defense.

Albion won't lose a single player to graduation this year, so Mikenna will go in knowing most of the team from her visits to see her sister.

"I'll be going in already with friends," Mikenna said. "I won't be going in with that awkward time of trying to get to know them."

The Britons have another pair of sisters already on the team — Kayla and Olivia Paquette, of Clawson.

Mikenna — one of only four incoming freshmen in Albion's recruiting class — sought out Kayla Paquette and asked her what it was like having her sister on a college team.

"College is a lot different from high school, so I wanted to get her input on that," Mikenna said. "She was like, 'I'm loving it.' Then when I told my sister I was going to Albion, she was so excited. We like playing together, because we're so close in age. We're each other's best friends."

Defense has always been Mikenna's strong suit.

She'll begin her second season as West's starting sweeper — and fourth overall starting on defense — this spring, after starting for three years in the back row of the Titans' successful volleyball program and two years as a starting guard in basketball.

"It kind of happened that way," Mikenna said. "I prefer to play defense, too, because that is my strength. Coach Ginsberg put me on the court to play defense. ... In soccer, my coach relies on me to be that person to hold that back line."

In basketball, she often drew the assignment of guarding the opposition's best guard.

A two-year starter in basketball, she immediately increased the Titans' intensity.

"When she emerged for us last year," West girls basketball coach Dave Ginsberg said, "we became a great defensive team."

The Titans became one of the stingiest teams in northern Michigan, allowing only 26 points per game and holding opponents to 29-percent shooting from the field.

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