An enthusiastic crowd Wednesday evening at the Igloo was treated to an intense five-set match between the crosstown rivals. In the end, Portage Central snagged the narrow victory at Portage Northern, 22-25, 25-15, 23-25, 25-22, 15-11.
The match overall had 16 lead changes with six coming just in the opening set. It was knotted up at 16-15 midway through the first before the Huskies snagged control late for the 25-22 victory. The Mustangs roared back with a lopsided 25-15 win to even things at 1-1.
The Huskies started the third set strong, racing out to a 15-9 lead initially. Portage Central answered with an 8-1 run to go ahead 17-16. They stayed even the rest of the way with the score moving to 23-23. Portage Northern would get the next two points via an attack going long and a PC violation to secure the 25-23 final.
The Mustangs began the fourth set with a 4-0 run, but a 7-2 response gave the Huskies the lead. Portage Central went back up 12-9 at a timeout, but were trailing again by the next stoppage 18-17. The fourth was even at 22-22 before the Mustangs rattled off three consecutive points to force the decisive fifth set for the second straight year.
Portage Northern began with the serve in the fifth set, but Megan Seeley scored the opening point for the Mustangs and they would stay ahead the entire way. A block from Maizie Brown sealed the fifth set at 15-11 and secured the PC match victory.
Unofficially, Ryann Jaqua led Portage Central with 19 kills followed by 12 from Seeley. Libero Ashlyn Erny added five aces. The Huskies saw 12 kills from both Makayla Smith and Ellie Antor.
Portage Central improves to 1-1 in the SMAC West and 13-8 overall with Portage Northern dropping to 0-2 in the SMAC West and 7-9-1 overall. Both teams host a tournament Saturday, then return to division play next Wednesday as the Mustangs host Niles and the Huskies travel to second-ranked Mattawan.