FRASER — With a distinct height disadvantage, Fraser coach Kristi Skladanowski knew that her team faced an uphill battle against Grosse Pointe North Sept. 12.
The Ramblers devised a game plan to take away North’s physical advantage, but in the end, North defeated Fraser in straight sets, 25-18, 25-22, 25-22.
Christa Raicevich led Grosse Pointe North with 15 kills, and she remained a constant threat throughout the match. The junior outside hitter has become an offensive force on the court and has grown into her own as one of North’s leaders, according to North coach Kim Lockhart.
“She’s been on the varsity team since she’s been a freshman, but this year is really her year to take a lot of that leadership role,” Lockhart said. “The girls really count on her, and the offense is based around her. It will be interesting to see how she handles the pressure, but so far, she’s doing a good job.”
Fraser senior Victoria Vellucci led the way for the Ramblers with eight kills and 19 digs, and fellow senior Rachel Parus contributed six kills and 20 digs.
Fraser had chances to take the last two sets but never seemed to be able to get the crucial point required to put the Ramblers over the top. In the second game, Fraser was tied with North at 22, and in the final game, Fraser led 21-19 before North came back to clinch the match. Skladanowski said that the match was indicative of her team’s effort this season, but that they are still lacking the killer instinct to close out games and matches.
“The biggest thing that we have to improve on is gaining confidence in our abilities. Being a younger team, I think that kind of plays with them. We’re right there to compete with anybody right now, it’s just that we need to take care of our side of the ball,” Skladanowski said. “The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but the effort was there.”
Effort played a key role in keeping Fraser within striking distance of North. The Ramblers didn’t have an answer to completely stop Raicevich, but they found ways to contain her in stretches of the contest.
“We saw North earlier this season at the Dakota tournament, so we were working on our blocking, getting touches on that, and I think that we did a good job of controlling that. She (Raicevich) is a great player, so she can take command of the floor extremely well,” Skladanowski said.
Aside from Raicevich’s effort, North was also led by Caitlin Gaitley, who had five kills and 18 digs. Junior Olivia Ritchie added seven kills and four digs, while junior Maddy Bessert added five kills and five digs for the Norsemen. Lockhart said that while Raicevich took control of the match, communication was key for her team playing in a hostile environment at Fraser.
“It was hard to even talk to them on the court. They did a great job of communicating and working through it, especially for our first match. It’s just great to get our first win under our belt for the league, but I was really proud of them for battling through the noise,” Lockhart said.
Fraser is now 7-9 overall and will travel to L’Anse Creuse on Sept. 19. Skladanowski said that she believes her team is about to break through.
“Our middles need to step up a little bit, but again, they’re getting there. They’re doing a nice job of closing the blocks. It’s defense first. We talked about our blocking defense because of the height disadvantage we have,” Skladanowski said. “We’re almost there. We just have to keep pushing forward each day to get better.”