By Dave Hart

MONTAGUE- It looks like there’s a new contender in the West Michigan Conference volleyball race.

Montague, which finished fourth in the league last year, has been surprising opponents with its strong play so far this season.LSJ Logo incert

The Wildcats demonstrated their strength by dominating Ravenna 3-0 (25-9, 25-8, 25-11) on their home court Tuesday night.

Montague's Emma Flagstead goes for the spike. Photo/Jason Goorman

Montague’s Emma Flagstead goes for the spike. Photo/Jason Goorman

“Our whole team returned this year while Ravenna lost some seniors,” said Montague coach Shawn Bectel. “We are plugging away this season.”

The Wildcats are off to a great start with an 18-4 record.

Bectel thinks it may be possible for the Wildcats to challenge seven-time champion Whitehall in the league this year, particularly after beating Mona Shores in the Reeths-Puffer Invitational finals and taking second place in the tough Western Michigan Christian Invitational.

Ravenna, which advanced to the state quarterfinals last year, has only one senior on its roster.

The difference in experience between the two teams was obvious on the court.

Montague led 8-5 in the first set, then took control by going on a 6-0 run. Junior Anna Olson had two kills for the Wildcats during the run.

Sophomore Allyssa Bobian closed out the first set, serving the final six points for Montague.

Amber Jacobs gets ready to put down a point for Ravenna. Photo/Jason Goorman

Amber Jacobs gets ready to put down a point for Ravenna. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Wildcats jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the second set with strong serves from sophomore Morgan Roesler.

The Bulldogs cut their deficit to five points at 8-3, but the Wildcats finished strong with a 17-5 run.

Junior Emma Flagstead had a strong second set for the Wildcats, with numerous kills at the net.

Flagstead’s success carried over in the third match, with more strong play in front of the net helping Montague grab a decisive 8-2 lead.

“Emma has been a real catalyst for us this year,” said Bectel. “She has almost 300 kills this year, only a week into the season, she is really doing some special things this year.”

“Our offense did not set up,” said Ravenna coach Kim Platt. “We are a young team. This is a work in progress.”

Flagstead finished with 15 kills, Bobian had five aces and Robbie Berg added nine kills and 12 digs.

Senior Sydney Hanson led the Bulldogs with nine digs and two aces while sophomore Amber Jacobs had six kills.

The Bulldogs are now 7-5 on the season.