Regional title within reach for GH volleyball

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM

And it’s been working quite well.

The Buccaneers made the long trip to Traverse City Central High School on Tuesday night and made quick work of Traverse City West, sweeping the Titans in three games.

That makes 27 consecutive games won by the Bucs, whose hot streak began during the O-K Red Conference tournament two weeks ago and hasn’t abated since.

“Conference was a huge turning point for our team,” said Grand Haven senior Abby Cole, who was a dominating force at the net on Tuesday with 11 kills and six blocks. “We began to play as one, and that’s been the key word for our team — one voice, one team.”

“We just treated this as any other match,” added Bucs’ junior Taylor Craymer. “We came out, got focused and played as one.”

Now the Bucs need one more win to claim the program’s first-ever regional championship. Grand Haven will host Forest Hills Central — a winner over O-K Red powerhouse Hudsonville on Tuesday — in Thursday’s regional championship match.

The Buccaneers may not have had everything going for them on Tuesday, as they struggled early on in Games 1 and 2, but when the games were on the line, the Bucs came up big.

In Game 1, the two teams were tied at 14-all. A big kill by Cole made it 15-14 Grand Haven, then her block put her team on top 18-14, forcing a West time out.

The Bucs didn’t let momentum slip away, as they continued to pull away and won the opening game, 25-19.

Game 2 was also close, with West leading 17-16 before Grand Haven turned things around. Krysteena Davis’ kill between a pair of blockers made it 18-17 Grand Haven, and the Bucs held on, eventually scoring a 25-20 win on Marissa Ejups’ kill.

In Game 3, the Bucs showed their capacity to put a team away early, and the Titans didn’t put up much of a fight. Grand Haven raced to a 14-5 lead, and even subbing in several reserves throughout the match didn’t slow down the Bucs, who won the final game 25-15.

“I don’t think we played our best tonight,” Grand Haven coach Aaron Smaka said. “Traverse City West played really, really well and I felt like we were a little behind, a little slow, a little sluggish, especially to start the games, but when the games were tight, at the end of Game 1 and Game 2, the kids did a really good job of focusing on what they needed to do.

“They calmed down at the end of those two games and executed and finished. Then Game 3, we came out and finally played the way we wanted to play.”

Davis led the Bucs with 13 kills and added four blocks, while Ejups had nine kills, nine digs and two blocks.

Jami Hogeboom had 35 assists for the Bucs, and her job was made more difficult because Grand Haven didn’t pass particularly well on the night. Andrea Smith chipped in with 10 digs.

First-year Traverse City West coach Emily Baumann said her team struggled to deal with the 6-foot-5 Cole in the middle.

“Their middle, Abby, she’s a big girl, and she’s definitely a force to be reckoned with,” said Baumann, whose team finished with a 30-13-1 record. “She’s tough to get past as a hitter. We have a big offense, and she’s definitely a big block there to get around.

“We did not play very strong tonight. We made a lot of errors. We’re not really know for that.”

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