There are other factors driving the Bucs.
“We’re not just playing for each other, but for people that we admire,” said junior middle hitter Krysteena Davis. “A lot of us are playing for grandparents who passed away or other people that inspire us.”
For Davis, her source of motivation comes from a familiar face — her older brother, Matt, who is currently a freshman on the Adrian College men’s soccer team. Krysteena wouldn’t mind duplicating what Davis accomplished during his senior season with the Grand Haven varsity soccer team — advancing to the state finals.
“He never gives up when he’s playing. That’s why I look up to him,” she said. “I hope we can go that far. We’re going to have to work for it, but I think it’s possible.”
Davis and the Bucs took the first step toward that goal on Monday at Grand Haven High School, as they easily took care of visiting Reeths-Puffer in a three-game sweep that lasted only 40 minutes, 25-11, 25-10, 25-13. The win continues a torrid recent stretch for the Bucs, who wrapped up the O-K Red Conference title on Saturday with three-straight sweeps. That followed two other conference wins on Thursday in a new round-robin format. It was their first league title in seven years.
Grand Haven improves to 40-16-1 overall and advances to Wednesday’s semifinals at Cedar Springs High School to face the host Redhawks.
The Rockets had no player taller than 5-foot-10 in their lineup on Monday, while Grand Haven featured five at 6-feet or taller. Of course, the Bucs turned that advantage into domination at the net, as four different players had seven or more kills, led by the 6-foot Davis and 6-5 senior Abby Cole with 10 apiece.
“The best thing with us is that people think they have a matchup advantage when Abby goes to the back row, but when Krysteena’s there, we’re just as dangerous,” said Grand Haven coach Aaron Smaka. “She’s so fast and she’s able to move around and hit around people, it makes it very hard to defend against because of her speed and quickness.”
Grand Haven exposed Puffer’s less-than-stellar defense all evening. In Game 1, senior Andrea Smith got on a roll serving early and then late, and finished with 12 service points.
In between, junior setter Jami Hogeboom did a tremendous job keeping the Rockets’ blockers guessing by getting everyone involved at a rapid pace. She was also effective creating her own offense with several deceptive quick tips at the net. She had 40 assists and five kills during the match.
“Everything seems to be clicking right now, “ Davis said. “Our passing has been really good and the sets are there.
“We consider Jami to be the mom of the team,” she added. “She’s always telling us what to do, but in a good way. She’s one of our captains, so she’s someone to look up to.”
The Bucs’ effectiveness continued in Game 2, allowing Smaka to sub in several players off the bench, including three recent call-ups from the junior varsity level. One of them was sophomore Paige Holman, who wasted little time asserting herself with strong serving and an impressive kill from her right outside hitter spot.
“It’s fun when you can get a lot of players to step in and contribute,” Smaka said.
Maybe the Bucs’ only real rough spot occurred early in Game 3, when the Rockets showed some fire by closing to 9-5 after a Grand Haven hitting error and a double block. Smaka quickly — and angrily — called timeout.
“We needed to realize that we want to play at one speed, one level and one way,” he said. “And right there, I didn’t think we were. I think we responded pretty well, which was good to see.”
Grand Haven got the wake-up call by going on a 9-1 run, thus essentially putting the victory on ice.
Hogeboom was one of three players to record seven digs, along with seniors Andrea Smith and Lauren Hamberg. Cole turned away four Rockets’ attacks with blocks, while Marisa Ejups and Davis each had two.