The quad featuring the host Sailors, Fruitport, Spring Lake and Grand Haven was forced inside to Mona Shores’ Sailors Center after nearly an hour and a half due to moisture creating a slippery surface on the playing courts inside Mona Shores football stadium. Still, players and coaches alike gave the event rave reviews.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Fruitport outside hitter Brandie Jones. “It was cool out but there was enough sun that we got to wear sunglasses.”
“What a great atmosphere to have these girls involved in an outdoor game,” added Spring Lake coach Sarah Bulthuis. “After 26 seasons of coaching, this is one that will go in my memory book. It was a great experience for these four teams.”
That was the goal of Mona Shores' athletic director Ryan Portenga when the school began brainstorming the event last year. There have been outdoor prep volleyball matches held in Michigan in the past, including three MHSAA-sanctioned outdoor matches last year, but this was the first time at a location on the Lakeshore.
“In the time we were able to play outside, it rocked,” he said. “We estimated that we probably had about 1,400 people come and visit at one time or another, which helped create a great atmosphere for these girls.”
To see more photos from the tournament, click here.
Portenga said more than 100 student volunteers helped lay down the portable, rented courts that stretched 80 feet long and weighed more than 5,000 pounds each. Portenga said it cost the athletic department about a "couple thousand dollars" to pull off the event.
"We'd like to do it again in the future, but we'll first have to evaluate the costs. But financially, I think we're fine," he said. "Really, this was all about doing it for the girls and creating a showcase for the local volleyball programs. We called it the 'Girls Night Out,' and now it's the 'Girls Night In.'"
Portenga was also pleased that his Sailors came out on top with an unbeaten 3-0 record, as they toppled the Lakers in two, needed three games before defeating Grand Haven, and also went the distance against Fruitport.
Grand Haven had a roller coaster type of day, beginning with its opening match against Fruitport.
The Bucs faced a double-digit deficit in Game 1, until their blocking took over, led by the long-arms of 6-foot-5 senior Abby Cole and 6-1 junior Krysteena Davis. That ignited a tremendous comeback, propelling Grand Haven to a 26-24 win, then a 25-19 win in Game 2.
Their next match was halted midway through the second game.
“Safety was our No. 1 priority,” Portenga said. “We didn’t want to see anyone twist an ankle or slide or slip on the court.”
Inside, Bucs’ coach Aaron Smaka said the match resembled a playoff atmosphere, as both Grand Haven and Mona Shores’ fan bases turned the volume up a notch.
The Bucs fed off the atmostphere by winning the second game and force a do-or-die third game that was played to 15. Mona Shores struck back and pulled out the thriller, 15-11.
“It came down to the fact that they made fewer mistakes than us at the end,” Smaka said. “But it was a great thing to put them through. It was like playoff volleyball.”
Cole, who returned after a two-week hiatus due to a concussion, led the Bucs with 27 kills, 11 blocks and four aces. Davis added 12 kills and five blocks, and transfer Marisa Ejups — who was seeing her first action — had 10 kills.
Andrea Smith led the Bucs with 28 digs, and Jami Hogeboom added 16, along with 45 assists.
Fruitport bounced back from its loss to the Bucs by beating rival Spring Lake, despite dropping the first game in the match.
The Trojans received 27 kills during the evening from Jones, but they didn’t have enough firepower to overtake Shores, falling 23-25, 27-25, 15-5.
Spring Lake was the only squad to go winless, despite sophomore Kelsee Zuidema’s performance of 13 kills, 18 digs, two blocks, five aces and nine points.
“I had hoped we would play better and more consistently,” Bulthuis said. “Our passing is still struggling to run an offense. We give our opponents too many free balls forcing us to be on the defensive side too much.”