MIDLAND — If Emily Baumann left Midland knowing one thing, it’s that the Traverse City West volleyball team has an extremely bright future.
The Titans traveled to Midland for the Division 1 regional volleyball final Tuesday and fell to Grand Blanc 25-22, 16-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-11. The five-set regional final was the first the Titans appeared in since 2015, but is just the beginning for this group, according to Baumann.
“I honestly think it’s going to fire our younger girls up because they know that we should have won that game, because we did not play our best,” Baumann said. “I think it’s going to light a fire under their crackers, knowing where we are at, what we did and where we can go next year.”
The 2020 Big North Conference co-champions lose three seniors to graduation, returning six juniors and a freshman. Those returning include outside hitters Becky Lane and Makenna Ebling, setter Sara Schermerhorn and libero Ally Jo Mckenna — each of which were integral parts this season.
“Knowing that we have such younger girls, it shows them it’s awesome to be here, but it would be more awesome to go even further and we can do it,” Baumann said. “I absolutely love my seniors, but this little group of juniors, and I have a freshman, has an amazing opportunity to be super strong next year.”
Middle blocker Leah Allen and defensive specialists Madelynn Johnson and Sammy Schaub ended their senior season with the best finish for a Titans team in five years.
The Titans feel they beat themselves against Grand Blanc Thursday. The Bobcats squeezed out a first-set win with a four-point run to close out the game. The Titan defense was unable to stop kills from three different Bobcats on the run and fell behind early with a 25-22 loss.
Baumann said small runs like the one that ended the first set were the crucial in the loss.
“Once we get in a drought it’s really hard for us to come back because it takes a lot for the team to keep trying to get our momentum going,” said Allen, who had five kills and six blocks. “It didn’t help that we lost the first set, because then we were more down.”
TC West bounced back for a decisive 25-16 win in the second set, made possible by an 8-3 run that closed the set. Alaina Mikowski and Lane each belted two kills on the run that tied the match at one game each.
The Titans looked to have the momentum in set three when they scored four straight to take a 20-19 lead, but the Bobcats let the Titans make three consecutive errors to regain the lead for good. The Bobcats won the third set 25-23, the closest of the evening.
“We were a little nervous coming in because we’ve never seen them but we were able to get some film from the Mt. Pleasant coach,” Grand Blanc head coach Karly Cocke said. “It definitely helped that we watched film yesterday and were able to prepare as much as possible.”
The fourth set opened up when the Titans broke off a 7-2 run to take an 18-12 lead before closing out on three straight kills for a 25-20 win. Remi Madison, Grand Blanc’s sophomore outside hitter, put the exclamation point on the final set with three straight kills that broke a tie at 11 to give the Bobcats the regional crown. Thursday was Grand Blanc’s first regional title since 1997.
The Titans took home a share of the BNC title and a district title for the first time since 2017, finishing with a 23-4 overall record.
“It’s been the most amazing time I’ve ever had,” Allen said while crying postgame. “It’s been quite the journey and it has been one of the best parts of my life.
“I think we set a good tone for them leading into next season. I feel like their talent all connecting will take them very far and now they know what to expect.”