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Fruitport volleyball team defends its home court, captures second straight district title

Josh VanDyke • Nov 4, 2017 at 12:49 AM

FRUITPORT — With both fan bases reaching a fever pitch at the end of the second set of Friday’s Class B district volleyball championship match at Fruitport High School, Fruitport head coach Nicole Bayle implored her young squad to relax.

After dominating the first set of the match against Whitehall, the Trojans fell victim to some nervousness, and the result was a 25-23 loss to the Vikings to even the match at 1-1.

“I just told them, ‘This is our gym, this is our day, and this is our opportunity to be successful and win a district title,” Bayle said. “We’re playing like we are down 2-0, and we need to get refocused and do our jobs.

“I also tried to crack a few jokes and say something to make them laugh, because they needed to relax and not overthink things.”

The Trojans weren’t joking around once the ball came back in play, however, as they rolled past the Vikings in the next two sets, 25-15 and 25-10, to capture their second straight Class B district title.

The Trojans advance to play Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Class B regional semifinals on Tuesday at Orchard View High School, with first serve set for 6 p.m.

The Cougars defeated rival Grand Rapids West Catholic, 3-2, in their district final Friday.

“I felt like we really executed our gameplan well. Whitehall is a good team with some solid players,” Bayle added. “They have a good outside hitter, who really made us sweat a little bit, but I thought we continued to serve well and that has made a big difference for us in the last week.

“Our transition passing is more on target, too, and the ball is getting to the places it needs to go on time, so we are even more unpredictable in our attacks. Kailey (Carmean) once again did a really nice job of spreading the ball around tonight.”

Despite gripping too tight in Set 2, Bayle was proud of the resiliency that her team showed in the following set.

“That’s the reality of the situation. I think everyone in the gym could tell that we got a little nervous as a team in that second set,” she continued. “We do not play well when we are nervous, but I was really proud of our kids for stepping up and working through that and responding well in the next set.

“The playoffs are going to be like that and these are 16- and 17-year-old kids out here, and they don’t want their seasons to end. I don’t think it would very realistic of me to expect them not to have some nerves in that type of situation.”

Kylie Oberlin recorded 15 kills, nine digs and four blocked shots to lead the Trojans (33-17-4), while Rachel Paulsen added 18 kills and six digs, and Kailey Carmean added a team-high 49 assists.

Also adding key contributions for the Trojans were: Jordyn Carlyle with11 kills; Chloe Kern with three service aces and seven digs; and Trinity Busscher had a team-high 18 digs.

The combination of Oberlin, Paulsen and Carlyle were overpowering at moments of Friday’s match, and are a big reason why the Trojans’ season is still ongoing.

“There are a nasty trio,” Bayle said of the group. “Kailey does a nice job of spreading the ball to Rachel, Jordyn and Kylie out there and those three have been doing an excellent job of hitting the ball with confidence and accuracy. They’ve really upped their game to a new level this past month or so, and they continue to get better with each match.”

After going through some growing pains with a young team during an onslaught of non-conference tournaments in August, Bayle still didn’t lose sight of the program’s continued high standard of excellent.

“I always think we can win a district title every season, but I definitely got some more grey hair this year,” she joked. “I do think this team has come a long way in terms of maturity and focus. They had huge goals entering the season, but didn’t know how to get there.

“I think they’ve finally learned that it takes tremendous work ethic, practicing hard every day and being selfless individually in order to reach those goals.”

With a bevy of hard hitters among their lineup, a setter who is seeing the ball well and a team with a collective confidence, it may only be a matter of time before this group reaches those lofty goals set back in August.

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