The banners still hang on the walls of Fruitport’s intimate little volleyball gym, honoring state championships won in 2005, 2010 and 2011.
But the swagger that once resided in the gym as nowhere to be found on Wednesday evening as the host Trojans succumbed to the visiting Vikings of Whitehall in three games in the semifinal round of the Class B district tournament.
With the win, Whitehall advances to face Spring Lake in tonight’s district title match at 7 p.m. That contest will take place at Fruitport.
Francesca Cerniglia was a sophomore who played in the state finals back in 2011. She said her senior season, while not blessed with the same success as her sophomore campaign, will nonetheless be remembered fondly.
“It was hard tonight,” she said. “We practiced so well this week. Whitehall was just a better team tonight.
“I was fortunate enough to be a part of that state championship team, and I remember every time you stepped on the court, those girls were just amazing. This year, we had a lot of hustle and a lot of raw talent, but we didn’t have the fundamentals we needed. Still, it was an amazing year, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The Trojans never challenged the Vikings in Game was as Whitehall cruised to a 25-15 win. The Trojans’ serve receive and passing weren’t up to the task against a Vikings’ team that used strong serving to put Fruitport on its heels.
The Trojans put up a bit more of a fight in Game 2, leading 11-8 and forcing a Vikings’ time out. Fruitport’s passing was much better, leading to a more efficient offensive showing.
But after the time out, Whitehall re-exerted its dominance at the net, as towering middle hitter Jane Kuipers and outside hitter Jenna Pesch each got into the mix, along with middle hitter Rachel Brown.
Whitehall pulled away for a 25-20 win, then cruised to a 25-14 victory in Game 3 to finish off the match.
“Whitehall’s the better team, and in a couple different positions, they just had better players than us,” said Trojans’ coach Nicole Bayle, whose team finished with an uncharacteristic 16-25 record. Whitehall is now 40-10-1. “Our girls worked hard tonight, but I really didn’t expect Pesch to get than many kills. She was really the X-factor.”
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