Fall sports teams across the area began practice on Wednesday.
For some, it’s a time to start fresh after graduating key contributors. For others, it’s a chance to continue the growing process with a young group of student-athletes. For all, it’s a chance to embrace the challenge of putting together a winning season.
For more photos of Wednesday's fall sports practices, click here.
Here’s a list of five teams to watch as the fall sports season progresses:
1. Grand Haven volleyball — The Buccaneers are coming off the most successful state tournament run in the illustrious history of the program. Grand Haven reached the Class A state semifinals in 2012. Repeating as district and regional champions won’t be easy, especially with the graduation of Abby Cole, the program’s all-time leader in kills and blocks. Cole is now competing for playing time on the University of Michigan’s women’s volleyball squad.
But the cupboard is far from bare for coach Aaron Smaka. He has the good fortune of welcoming back a pair of all-state performers in setter Jami Hogeboom and middle hitter Krysteena Davis. Davis has committed to play volleyball at Oakland University, while Hogeboom has pledged her services to Northern Michigan.
2. Spring Lake girls cross country — The Lakers turned in a dazzling performance at the Division 2 state meet last fall, placing second behind Forest Hills Eastern. Like Grand Haven volleyball, the Lakers’ cross country team also loses an icon of the program in Brittany Beeler. Fortunately for coach Aaron Andres, Beeler was the lone senior in the Lakers’ top seven at the state meet. Leading the way is junior Carlyn Arteaga, who rewrote the Lakers’ record books during this past track and field season. She’ll be joined near the top of the Lakers’ pack by seniors Jamie Kossuth and Ashley Warner, junior Lacie Piekarski and sophomores Erin O’Keefe and Brooke Carrier.
3. Fruitport volleyball — The Trojans are no stranger to success. They’ve claimed Class B state championships in 2005, 2010 and 2011, and lost in the state finals four other years since 2001. Last year, Fruitport’s tournament run came to an early end, but that can in part be contributed to moving up into Class A for the 2012-13 school year. This fall, Fruitport is back in Class B, and with a roster that graduated just three players. Count on coach Nicole Bayle to have her team primed for a deeper run into the state tournament this year.
4. Grand Haven girls cross country — Like the Lakers, Grand Haven also had a fantastic fall on the trails last year, capped off by a ninth-place finish at the Division 1 state meet. And like the Lakers, the Bucs lose just one runner out of their top seven finishers at the state meet in Lindy Vallier. Back to lead the way are seniors Roxy Glasser, Claire Borchers, Mikayla Rowden and Mikayla Takas, as well as sophomores Malea Teerman and Hannah Kenney. That group, plus plenty of other solid runners, will give coach Scott Przystas plenty to work with as he puts together his lineups this fall.
5. Spring Lake boys tennis — You know a team has enjoyed more than its fair share of success when a top-10 finish at the Division 3 state meet hardly raises eyebrows. But that’s the case with the Lakers’ boys tennis team, which had won 10 consecutive conference championships before finishing runner-up to Ludington last year. Still, Spring Lake pulled it all together at the regional meet and placed second behind Petoskey. At the state finals, the Lakers tied for 10th with six points. There will be a different feel to the program this fall after the retirement of Charlie Bassett, who coached the Lakers for 42 years. One thing won’t change, however, and that’s the player sitting atop the lineup for Spring Lake. Senior Ryan Fedewa has been a fixture at No. 1 singles since his freshman year.