Traverse City Central spikers top rival Traverse City West for 1st time since 2019

·4 min read

Sep. 23—TRAVERSE CITY — Kate McCrary came for a little more than moral support this time around.

The Traverse City Central senior outside hitter was called up to varsity as a freshman for districts the last time the Trojans took down their crosstown rivals Traverse City West. She didn't play in that game, jokingly saying she was there "for moral support."

This time, things changed.

McCrary contributed quite a bit Thursday as Central topped West for the first time since Nov. 6, 2019. McCrary chipped in nine big kills, nine digs and two aces in the 25-20, 25-11, 25-16 victory sweep at West Senior High.

"These big games against TC West are difficult to manage those nerves," McCrary said. "But us seniors do a really good job of leading the team and kind of calming those down."

McCrary said "Titan Takedown" was big on her list of goals for her senior campaign. Another would be a Big North Conference championship, and the win over the Titans keeps Central a game back of Cadillac in the BNC standings.

West (6-11, 3-2 Big North Conference) largely controlled the last decade of the rivalry, making Thursday's win even more special for the Trojans (17-6-4, 4-1 Big North).

"It's a huge win for us," Central senior Catelyn Heethuis said. "Anytime we beat West is always a little sweeter than any other win. We executed when we had to execute, we fought back when we were down, and that to us is the more important victory is that we just played our hearts out."

Junior Addy Booher provided energy for Central with nine digs, nine service points and one kill that Wilbert called "inspirational."

Booher, normally a back-line defender, was in the middle and took a swing with Central up 20-16 in the third game, pounding one right down the middle for a kill as the Titan blockers gravitated toward Central's outside hitters. West didn't score again after that, and Central ended the match on a 10-1 run.

"We kind of messed around with it in practice," Booher said. "I thought we were up enough, so I took my chances. It was so exciting."

Sophomore Elyse Heffner led TC Central with 10 kills, five digs and two blocks, while Heethuis produced five kills and two digs, and Phoebe Humphrey added three kills.

Junior libero Natalie Bourdo racked up 17 digs, three aces and three assists on her birthday.

Setter Marley Richmond was steady for the Trojans with 27 assists, four digs, three aces, a kill and 10 service points.

"Marley Richmond did a nice job of mixing it up," said Central first-year head coach Emily Wilbert, a former West assistant coach. "We had our middles getting some action on our outsides. We really kept their defense on their toes with our shot selection and mixing it up."

Central took the first set 25-20, rebounding from both teams committing a lot of early, nervous errors.

The Trojans trailed West in all three games but rallied back each time. West led the opening game 5-3 early on, then had a 3-1 advantage to start the second game and was up 11-7 after a 5-0 run spurred by four Avery Lahti kills.

"They came out from the very moment they hit the court ready to play," Wilbert said. "They had their foot on the pedal and pretty much stayed that way all three games."

The two teams used 22 players, with more sophomores (five) playing than seniors (three). Central's Heethuis, McCrary and defensive specialist Lily Briggs were the only seniors.

"None of us played them last year, none of the returning varsity players," Heethuis said. "So none of us know really how they play besides the people who came up from JV."

West was led by Lahti (five kills, four digs, one block), Amaleah Streit (six digs, one ace), Audrey LaFaive (nine digs, four kills), Ava Hellem (three kills, two blocks, one dig), Claire Miner (three kills, one block), Jenna Flick (five digs, one ace, one assist), Rena Smith (11 assists, four digs), Kylee Cooper (two kills) and Madeline Bildeaux (two aces, one kill) and Kaylee Schaub (three assists, one dig).

"This is more of a mental game than anything, playing West," Booher said. "We had the confidence, but we didn't come out cocky. We just played how we played in practice, how we played against Alpena and Gaylord. And our energy was insane."

Central travels to Big North leader Cadillac on Oct. 5 and hosts TC West for the regular-season finale Oct. 26.

"Playing them the first time gave us a chance to see who they have and don't have and what their strengths are," McCrary said. "Hopefully we can focus on that in practice and beat them the next two times we play."

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