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Fall sports previews: Volleyball

Nich Wolak • Updated Aug 20, 2016 at 12:29 AM

GRAND HAVEN 

Last year: Lost in regional semifinals to No. 3 Grand Rapids Christian; entered postseason with No. 5 ranking in Division 1; won the O-K Red Conference title and ninth straight district title

Third-year returning seniors:

Katie Cole, Setter

• All-State Honorable Mention, All-Regional, All-Conference and All-Area in 2015

• Verbally committed to Indiana Wesleyan University

Coach Aaron Smaka on Cole: “Katie is a servant setter and strong floor leader. She is very athletic and quick. She delivers a great ball and has great demeanor about her. She will look to be more of an offensive threat this season. She knows how to win and puts her hitters in great offensive situations where they can succeed.”

Sophia Newhouse, Libero

• Second Team All-State, All-Region, All-Conference and All-Area in 2015

Smaka on Newhouse: “Sophia is a fierce & intelligent competitor who is our anchor on serve receive and defense. She reads situations and players very well and makes great play after great play. She plays the game with no reservation and truly believes she can get every ball. She is one of the best liberos in the state.”

Morgan Ross, Outside/Opposite Hitter

• Led the 2015 team in kills, coming up just short of 400

• All-Region, All-Conference and All-Area in 2015

• Committed to Ferris State University

Smaka on Ross: “Morgan is a strong weapon, with a heavy hand. She is also versatile and can terminate from anywhere in the front row. She is excellent in serve receive and has a very high volleyball IQ. Her size at the pin position will be a factor for us this season.”

Claire Holman, Middle Hitter

• Led the 2015 Buccaneers in blocks, third in kills

• Honorable Mention All-Conference and All-Area

Smaka on Holman: “Claire is a quick an explosive middle who has great speed to either pin. She has the ability to run many different routes offensively and is very hard to stop running behind the setter. She is a leader who makes those around her better.”

Libby Cole, Outside Hitter/Libero

• Committed to Indiana Wesleyan University

Smack on Cole: Libby is a great all-around player who will be a huge asset for us this season. She is a quick and aggressive defender — a springy outside hitter with great hops. She is returning from a torn ACL last season and makes us stronger.”

Other returners: Junior Olivia Boeve (Outside/Opposite Hitter, Second Team All-Area), senior Cassidy Schumacher (Outside/Opposite Hitter, Stonehill University commit), senior Maddy Housenga (Middle Hitter/Davenport University commit), junior Lauren Jonker (Middle/Opposite Hitter), Kennidi Bernia (Outside Hitter/Libero)

Newcomers: Sophomore Avolyn Lepo (Middle Hitter), Olivia Sanborn (Outside Hitter/Libero)

Smaka on the team’s outlook: “We return a senior-heavy team with great experience and high expectations. This is a very driven group of players. Outstanding ball control and relentless defense will give us the opportunity to separate from the field. We also have a number of very strong offensive weapons.

“The O-K Red will be tough as always and we look to put ourselves in position to win every match. Finishing at the top of the O-K Red is a great accomplishment for any team, including us. It is a great volleyball conference and a great challenge that always helps prepare us for the postseason.

“We will give a gold-medal effort each and every day to reach our goals. We will be better each day when we leave the gym and will play our best volleyball in November. This team will chase their dreams as we go for gold.”

SPRING LAKE

Last season: Finished tied for second in the Lakes Eight Conference

Key returners:

Senior Olivia Grimmer

Coach Cassidy Hazekamp on Grimmer: “She's an outstanding player in all six positions. She’s great in the front row, she's got a wicked serve and her defense has really improved. She played a lot of club. ... She's a born leader. She wants to get better and improve every day. If I had practice for 8 hours, she would complain it wasn't long enough. … That attitude is contagious to our team.”

Senior Isabel Donnelly

Hazekamp on Donnelly: “She’s making the transition from left side to middle blocker this season. She's a really great front row player. She has a lot of tools for offense, and is a blocking machine for us. She did not lead us last year, but I anticipate that being her leading category.”

Promising newcomers: Sophomores Jenna Core and Jencen Sabo

Hazekamp on moving from the Lakes Eight to O-K Blue Conference: “I am definitely excited for a new conference. Going back way to when I played, we played the same teams. … To see some new teams and a new conference and start fresh, I'm really excited.

“The Blue is definitely going to have some deeper teams. We're going to have to more competition throughout the conference. We’re not going to be able to take a match off and get a win. We're going to have to be ready to go and give our best all the time. I think that a conference championship is definitely in sight for us, it's definitely a goal for us. I would definitely expect us to end in the top of the pecking order for this new conference. That's what we’re really working for this year.”

FRUITPORT

Last year: Won Lakes Eight

Key returners:

Senior Kelsie Schultz

Fruitport coach Nicole Bayle on Schultz: “Kelsie split with a senior libero last year. She has put in some serious time and looks. She brings a lot to our team. She gets to a lot of balls that you wouldn’t imagine.”

Senior Katie Veihl

Bayle on Veihl: “She’s one of the most well-rounded players that I have coached. She set as a JV kid, played outside and can even play middle if needed to. She has an awesome attitude and work ethic, and will do anything you want as long as she gets to compete.”

Senior Ally German

Bayle on German: “She’s a returning middle coming off knee surgery. She's kind of getting back to feeling stronger, feeling confident. She isn’t just getting back in to the swing of things, but she's a great blocker and major offensive threat in the middle. We’re just looking forward to her getting healthy and confident.”

Bayle on the team’s outlook: “We have a pretty young kind of team this year. We graduated some pretty important playing positions and important leaders. As the season progresses my goal is to continue to learn, improve and grow.

“I think we have a chance to be a pretty (competitive) team. … We just need to put in the work to get that done. We have the talent. We set pretty high goals.”

Bayle on switching from the Lakes Eight to the O-K Black: “I think it's going to be a good transition. We have been in the Lakes Eight for a long time. Being part of the O-K Black is going to be an opportunity to grow and be challenged — change the level of competition we’re going to face. We want to achieve a conference championship in our first year. We think that's something we can achieve if we work toward it.”

WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN 

Returning seniors: Ashley Sandin, Kaitlyn Kilgore, Haylee Moser, Jessica Eekhoff and Cassie Kingma

Other returners: Junior Aubrey Goorman and sophomore Anna Sytsema

Newcomers: Juniors Annika Erickson, Peyton Deur, Abby Summerfield and Kylie Luhring


Quoting coach Trent Smillie: “This is a very hungry, athletic, and intelligent team. We will have strong attackers at every position. Our passing and setting have improved greatly, so the attacking will be more exciting and efficient than last year.
“We have done a lot of work in the last 12 months to get where we are now. We are very excited to see it all start coming together this week at tryouts. Meredith (Smillie, co-coach) and I are so very blessed to be part of this season.” 


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