The Trojans, who are seeking their 11th straight league championship this fall, admitted to a few butterflies before the festivities and said they’re nowhere close to being on the same page as last season’s title squad. Fortunately for the Trojans, Spring Lake isn’t in form to supplant them.
Despite some rough stretches of inconsistent hitting and passing issues, the Trojans persevered and completed a three-game sweep of the Lakers, 25-16, 25-23, 25-22, to improve their season record to 17-2 overall and 2-0 in the Lakes Eight Conference. Spring Lake falls to 13-6 and 1-1.
“We just need to pick up the hustle,” said Fruitport senior outside hitter Bre Geile, who had six kills and a team-high 12 digs. “Coach said we were playing with a lack of intensity and from here on out, we just need to pick it up.
“Spring Lake definitely kept us on our toes,” she added. “But a lot of us were a little nervous, too. It was such a big night. There was a lot going on.”
To see a photo gallery of the game and banner raising, click here.
The renovated gym, affectionately known as “The Barn,” has been sharply improved, with a dark wood paneling and giant silver Trojans’ logo on center court, surrounded by lighter paneling on the gym floor’s outer edges. New bleachers have also been installed — and in a close proximity to the court — creating an intimate setting for fans and an intimidating one for the opposition.
It didn’t seem to bother Spring Lake early, as the Lakers built a 6-1 lead in Game 1, but as the match wore on, Fruitport’s powerful serving and up-tempo offense frazzled the Lakers.
“We only had 16 kills the entire match,” Spring Lake coach Sarah Bulthuis said. “We cannot win against Fruitport when our offense isn’t producing like we need it to.
“Our ball control was not where it needs to be to run our offense,” she added. “But at the same time, they forced us into a lot of those bad points. They’ve got a lot of good servers and it forced us into making errors. (Unforced errors) were the most frustrating part. In all 13 of our wins, that’s why we’ve won.”
The Lakers had a combination of nine hitting errors or double hit violations in Game 1, allowing the Trojans to storm back.
Sloppy play plagued both teams in Game 2, as Spring Lake scored its first 10 points without recording a kill, but still remained tied with the Trojans following a tip from Shelbie Robinson. Fruitport had 11 errors in the match with either hitting or serving, prompting a frustrated Fruitport coach Nicole Bayle to say her squad was in store for a tiring practice the next day.
“We’re struggling a little bit right now,” she admitted afterward. “We’re still figuring out our roles and who’s going to step up out there. We graduated a lot of players who would carry us in those tough situations and we’ve got to have some girls step up.”
When the Lakers threatened to win Game 2 — taking a 22-21 lead on Kathryn Rumptz’s ace — the Trojans did step up, thanks to a pair of big kills by junior outside hitter Brandie Jones. She totaled a team-best nine during the match and also added two aces.
Spring Lake refused to roll over in the finale, forcing more shaky defense by the Trojans and tying the game at 20-all, then again at 22 on a kill by Erin Vargo.
“One thing you can always count on is Spring Lake being scrappy defensively and giving amazing effort,” Bayle said.
But the evening’s theme for the Lakers — hitting errors — reared its ugly head again. It helped give Fruitport points 23 and 24, then Geile’s ace finished out the match.
Bayle commended the leadership of senior setter Lauren Hazekamp for carrying the Trojans. Her complete game included 21 assists, four kills, 11 service points and two aces.
For Spring Lake, Bulthuis highlighted the play of senior Katelyn Schram, who had four kills, four blocks, 10 points and two aces. Shelbie Robinson also contributed four blocks, while Evie Lorimer had a team-high six kills, but struggled with her back-row hitting.
Spring Lake has the rest of the week off, while Fruitport prepares to host its home invitational on Saturday. Bayle said the 12-team field has “a ton of good teams,” including Grand Haven.
NOTES: Both Spring Lake and Fruitport wore green with their uniforms in tribute to Spring Lake’s Brenda Blahnik, the mother of Lakers’ junior setter Emily Blahnik. Brenda was seriously injured in an motorized lift accident at Spring Lake Aquatic Center on Aug. 27, and continues to recover at Spectrum Health Hospital in Grand Rapids. Green is Brenda’s favorite color, so the Lakers’ wore green shoe laces and the Trojans’ had green ribbons in their hair. ... Spring Lake’s coaching staff had a family feel on Tuesday. Sarah Bulthuis was joined by her two daughters, Betsy and Cassidy. Betsy is a varsity assistant, while Cassidy coaches the Lakers’ freshman team.
Junior Varsity: Spring Lake knocked off Fruitport, 25-20, 25-11. Breanna Williams had five kills for the Lakers (9-2-1, 2-0 Lakes Eight). Kelsee Zuidema added two blocks, Karley Engelsman had three aces, and Sierra Gipson finished with eight assists and eight digs.
Freshmen: Spring Lake defeated Fruitport on Tuesday, thanks in part to eight points, including seven aces, from Emily Betten. Betten also had two kills while Emma Suchecki had 10 digs. Abby Garrison added seven digs for the Lakers (6-4, 1-0 Lakes Eight).