A scrappy Traverse City West team forced a 24-24 tie in Game 1; had a 23-22 lead in Game 2; and was within a point at 23-22 in Game 3; but saw the Bucs score the deciding points in each instance.
“They’d close up on us every time, but we played within ourselves and we stayed relaxed,” said Grand Haven coach Katy Walters. “Nobody wants to go home at this point and every team at this point is talented. You have to earn every single point.”
Grand Haven was fine when it played sound defense and passed well to sophomore setter Jami Hogeboom, allowing her to provide quality sets to Haven’s big hitters, namely 6-foot, 5-inch junior Abby Cole.
Cole had eight of her team-high 19 kills in the opening game, but when she was subbed out for defensive purposes with the Bucs ahead at 19-14, the lead quickly evaporated. The Titans, who featured an undersized but very balanced offensive attack, surged back to close within 21-20, then tied it up with game-point looming.
But the Bucs sided out with the game tied at 24 with a big kill by Cole, then won it with another kill by Newhouse.
“We didn’t know what to expect out of them, and they did a lot more tips and roll shots than we expected,” Grand Haven senior outside hitter Megan Newhouse said. “We played them earlier this year, but we didn’t play well, so we tried to forget everything about it.”
Newhouse provided a spark for the Bucs, not only with big hits from the outside, but also with her hustle defense. Late in the third game, she crashed into the side support of the net with her leg while diving for a dig but got back up without incident.
“It happens,” she said. “I’m used to it by now.”
“It feels good to be a part of everything on the court,” she added. “To be able to get (the game-winning kills), sometimes it just happens.”
“Megan is super athletic, she’s fast and one of our most experienced players,” said Walters. “She goes hard for every ball out there. She’s a great leader and she had a big night tonight. The team is happy to see her do that, and it’s huge for her.”
Grand Haven trailed most of Game 2, until the Bucs received a spark by an ace from senior Kristen Reenders. They reeled off three of the next four critical points to gain an edge, and then Newhouse came up big again when it mattered most, turning in back-to-back kills to close out the game.
One of Cole’s team-high nine blocks gave the Bucs a 17-13 lead in the deciding third game, forcing the Titans to burn a timeout. They had one last rally in them, however, closing to within one point at 22-21 on a Bucs’ digging error.
But Traverse City West got a bad break when its high return hit the divider on the ceiling above Jenison’s volleyball court and the Titans couldn’t return the ball, giving the Bucs a 23-21 lead. That was fuel to the fire for the Bucs and Cole, as she polished off the victory with two big kills to keep her team alive in the tournament.
Hogeboom tallied 33 assists for the Bucs, while Reenders and Newhouse had 17 and 13 digs, respectively. Five-foot junior Alexandra Johnson also came up big with three aces.
With Thursday’s opponent in Rockford, Walters said her team had success against the Rams in an early-season tournament, but fell flat in a sweep during a conference matchup on Oct. 20.
“We feel we match-up better against Rockford because we’re similar in a lot of ways,” she said. “We both have big middles and a lot of weapons around the court. We beat them earlier because we were able to serve tough, which took them out of their offensive flow. We need to do that and pass the ball well if we want to stay alive.”