Winning championships is nothing new for area volleyball teams.
Grand Haven won its 11th district title in 12 seasons last year in Class A.
In Class B, it’s typically Fruitport that’s taking home district crowns, but last year, it was Spring Lake that rose to the occasion and claimed its first district since 1996 — the year many of its seniors were born.
Which teams will be challenging for championships in 2014?
SPRING LAKE LAKERS
The Lakers are coming off one of their most successful seasons in program history, winning the program’s first-ever regional game.
If they hope to continue that success, they’ll have to do so with a very different roster.
Gone are eight seniors and longtime coach Sarah Bulthuis. Anita Perkins, who coached the Lakers’ junior varsity team the last several years, takes over as varsity coach.
“I’ve been in Spring Lake for 10 years, and I coached these girls when they were on JV, so it seems kind of fitting,” Perkins said.
While much has changed, one constant is senior Kelsee Zuidema, who earned all-state honors last year as the Lakers’ powerhouse at the net. Zuidema is one of just two seniors on the roster, along with Emma Conroy, who will play libero.
“Kelsee and Emma are our leaders, our most talkative players on the court,” Perkins said. “They’re letting everyone know this is their team and we need to play at a very high level this year.”
GRAND HAVEN BUCCANEERS
Grand Haven graduated three all-state players from last year’s team, but that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare in Buccaneer country.
Need proof? The Bucs have opened the current season with a pair of invitational victories, winning at Ludington last Friday before capturing their home Lakeshore Classic for the first time in a decade.
“We return an experienced and hungry group of players,” said coach Aaron Smaka, whose team placed second in the always-tough O-K Red last year.
That group includes Amy Kober, Autumn Monsma, Emily Lachmann, Ally Knoll and Mackenzie Ritsma.
Kober is a 6-foot-1 outside hitter entering her third season on the varsity squad.
Monsma, a 5-10 outside hitter, is an explosive player at the net, while Lachmann, a 5-11 outside hitter, is the Bucs’ best passer in serve receive and has developed into a strong front-row player.
Knoll adds to the Bucs’ front-line size at 6-3, while Ritsma it a 6-foot middle hitter who brings great versatility to the court.
A key newcomer for the Bucs is sophomore setter Katie Cole. Her twin sister, Libby Cole, will contribute as an outside hitter. The Cole name isn’t new to Grand Haven volleyball fans — their older sister, Abby, plays for the University of Michigan volleyball squad.
Last fall was a very un-Fruitport-like season for the Trojans’ volleyball squad.
Coach Nicole Bayle hopes to right the ship this fall.
“We want to get back on top, back to our dominating ways,” said Bayle, who led the Trojans to state championships in 2010 and 2011.
Leading the way for Fruitport will be senior Claire McWilliams, a 6-3 middle hitter entering her fourth year on the varsity squad.
“She’s really developed into a dominant force in the middle,” Bayle said.
Also returning are Marissa Hassevort, Emily Pieczynski, Bre Fialek and Alyssa Veihl.
WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN
The Warriors opened their season with a championship at the Holton Invitational, which could be a positive forbearer of things to come.
WMC features a strong presence at the net in Ashly Schuitema.
Cassie Kingma and Amber Sandin are also solid net players, while a pair of transfers will help bolster the Warriors’ lineup.
Bronte Michura, who came to WMC from Grand Haven, had 48 kills in her team’s win at Holton. Meanwhile, Miranda Shafer, a Mona Shores transfer, is serving as the team’s setter.
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