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Grand Haven, Fruitport and WMC volleyball teams look for improvement at 8-team invite

Josh VanDyke • Aug 29, 2017 at 12:40 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — The first quarter of the volleyball season is a mad dash to Labor Day weekend, with most teams participating in close to 20 matches in only three weeks of action.

That doesn’t leave much time to hone your craft at practice, which is something both the Grand Haven and Fruitport volleyball squads are looking forward to in the coming weeks. The Buccaneers are only returning four senior players this season, while the Trojans only return one senior from 2016.

The collective inexperience has resulted in some uneven play by both teams, but Monday’s eight-team invitational tournament was yet another opportunity for the younger athletes to showcase their potential against high-quality competition early in the season.

Grand Haven finished the day with three wins and two losses.

The Buccaneers defeated Montague (25-17, 25-21), Northview (25-14, 25-22) and Western Michigan Christian (25-22, 25-18), and dropped decisions to East Grand Rapids (20-25, 12-25) and Coopersville (22-25, 25-20, 10-15).

“We’re still learning and we’re still growing, and I think that we picked up some valuable lessons today,” said Grand Haven head coach Aaron Smaka. “I think those lessons will make us a better team in the long run. Because of that, I think today was an OK day for this point in the year.

“We aren’t happy with some of the things that are happening during matches. We’re making way too many mistakes right now. To me, the two most important areas in the game are serving and passing, and we are struggling in those areas right now.”

While the passing and serving aren’t quite up to par just yet, Smaka did see some improvements on the offensive end since Friday’s Battle on the Boardwalk tournament.

“Offensively, I thought we did pretty well, and I’ve always been impressed with this team’s effort,” he added. “That’s a big reason why I’m not concerned at this point, but we need to work on getting better on our passing and first contact.

“As our serving gets better, our passing should get better, too. We just have a lot of kids that need to learn a lot of stuff, and we don’t have much time to work on things at practice right now.”

Senior outside hitter Olivia Boeve led the Bucs (16-36) with 35 kills, seven aces and 30 digs; while senior middle blocker Lauren Jonker added 18 kills; and sophomore Ashley Slater had 24 kills and three blocks.

“Olivia Boeve had one of the best days of her career,” Smaka added. “She led the team a little more, she passed the ball well, and offensively, she went really hard and swung really well.

“Lauren Jonker had one of her better days, too, and Ashley Slater really took a step forward today, as well.”

Also adding key contributions for the Bucs were: Kelly Klouw with 12 kills, Rachel Hilburger with 17 digs, Olivia Sanborn with 15 digs, Baby Hang with 14 digs, Ashlyn Hall with 44 assists and Sam Boeve with 40 assists.

“We’re going from a big group of seniors who were used to playing high-level volleyball all the time, to a group of younger athletes who are still learning how to do things,” Smaka continued. “We’re looking for some of those leadership qualities to show up in some kids, but we’re excited to see where this team is a month from now.”

FRUITPORT LOOKS FOR FINISHERS

The story of the day for Fruitport was their inability to finish close matches.

Fruitport finished 2-3 on the day with wins over Zeeland West (25-22, 21-25, 16-14) and Northview (25-20, 25-12), but lost to Zeeland West (22-25, 25-23, 9-15), Montague (25-20, 20-25, 13-15) and East Grand Rapids (20-25, 25-21, 12-15).

In all three of the team’s losses, the third-set tiebreaker ended up costing the team the match.

“We have some real issues with our team’s ability to run our offense efficiently on a consistent basis,” said Fruitport head coach Nicole Bayle. “Other than our match against Northview, we really struggled running our offensive sets, and it’s going to be a long season if we don’t figure out how to finish games.

“In all three of our losses, we lost close matches in the third set. Part of that is just us growing offensively and being more disciplined, and part of that is just maturity and executing and finishing games.

“I think they get nervous in close matches and fall away a little bit. If we are going to beat the good teams on our schedule, we’re going to have to get over that.”

Kailey Carmean led the Trojans (9-5) with eight aces, 114 assists and 62 digs, while Trinity Busscher added nine aces and 54 digs.

Kylie Oberlin added 36 kills and 12 blocks, while Rachel Paulsen had 32 kills and 44 digs, Jordyn Carlyle had 30 kills and 31 digs and Morgan Fialek added 18 kills.

“Kylie Oberlin did some really good things throughout the day, and Jordyn played really well, too,” Bayle added. “Both of them moved around and played a little back row, too. That’s not really their job, but they rose to the occasion for us.”

Despite the inconsistencies, Bayle believes the team’s tough opening schedule will help them prepare for the road ahead.

“We need to play these tough teams in order to compete with the good teams we still have on our schedule,” she said. “We just need to find those leaders to step up. I’ve seen glimpses, but we need to see more improvements.”

WMC finds silver lining in tough draw

The Western Michigan Christian volleyball team was by far the smallest school at the tournament on Monday, but the team never backed down from the competition they went up against.

The Warriors battled through a 0-5 day with losses to Grand Haven (22-25, 18-25), Coopersville (13-25, 19-25), Northview (23-25, 23-25), Zeeland West (14-25, 22-25) and Northview (25-21, 22-25, 10-15).

Madison Heiss recorded 22 kills, nine blocks and 34 digs to lead the Warriors (9-12), while Aubrey Gorman added 14 kills and seven blocks. Anna Sytsema recorded three aces and seven blocks and Chloe Mitchell added 75 assists and 33 digs and Abby Summerfield added 61 digs.

“I have never been so proud of a team that went 0-5 at a tournament,” said WMC head coach Trent Smillie. “These girls played some great volleyball today, hanging with everyone they played from much bigger schools. We played them all so tough and never gave up. That is the attitude it takes to succeed against the schools our size.

“The fact that we were right there, made this day so good for us, as we struggled a week ago versus smaller schools. Every match today was like a match against the team that won Class C state the last two years, and we are getting close. We are pretty young, but we keep improving.”

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