“It’s her mom’s favorite color,” explained Lakers’ senior Emma Kendro. “Emily’s been hanging in there the best she can. She’s a real sweet girl. It’s been tough on her, but she’s hanging in there and we’re trying to support her anyway we can until her mom gets better.”
Brenda was seriously injured in an accident at the Spring Lake Aquatic Center on Aug. 27, when a motorized lift she was working on fell over. She has not regained consciousness since an early back surgery at Spectrum Health Hospital in Grand Rapids and was also recently put into an induced coma. A recent surgery on her skull has helped reduce swelling on her brain, but a complete recovery from the accident remains uncertain.
Although she’s had to miss some practices and matches, Emily remains a fixture on the Lakers’ squad, and coach Sarah Bulthuis said it inspires her team when she arrives in the gym — including Tuesday against Orchard View.
“It’s a real positive for Emily to come into an environment that’s fun and where there’s fan’s cheering and all the support. It helps cheer her up,” Bulthuis said. “It really does pump our girls up when she’s here, and they were glad she was here tonight. But they also understand why she can’t be here all the time.”
The Lakers have been consistent visitors with Emily at the hospital, and helping a teammate deal in a tough time has brought the team closer together, Kendro said.
“We need to stay together as a team,” she said.
Considering the circumstances, the Lakers have performed admirably as of late, including a 3-0 record at a home quad on Sept. 1. A win over Fremont at the event was also Bulthuis’ 600th career match victory in her 25th year of coaching.
The Lakers easily added to their coach’s win total on Tuesday, as they swept a struggling Orchard View program in convincing fashion in their Lakes Eight Conference opener, 25-6, 25-13, 25-14.
“Our serve receive was really on tonight,” said Kendro, who benefitted from the Lakers’ strong first pass with 23 assists. “Our hitting was pretty solid, too. We did a good job at putting balls away.”
Spring Lake was expecting solid hitting contributions from its two standout seniors this season in Evie Lorimer and Hayley Schram, but making the Lakers a triple threat has been the emergence of sophomore Lydia Suchecki. The 5-foot-10 Suchecki tied for the team lead with Lorimer on Tuesday with 11 kills and frazzled the Cardinals with her powerful punch at the net.
“Around last week or so she’s really started to figure it out,” Bulthuis said. “She had that ‘ah-ha’ moment and really became more comfortable playing that left side. I expect her to continue on that uphill climb.”
Spring Lake set the tone of the match early, taking a 14-0 lead on OV in Game 1 and rolling to the 25-6 win.
“We passed well and controlled the pace of the game, and I thought our serving was very consistent,” Bulthuis said. “We had a lot of aces tonight and kept the pressure on them the entire way.”
The Lakers had three players with at least two aces, led by junior Mackenzie Gravelyn’s four. Senior Shelbie Robinson led the Lakers with 17 service points.
Game 2 was more of the same, as the Lakers built a 6-0 lead, and then overcame some sloppy hitting midway through the game to still win comfortably.
OV finally had its first lead of the match after scoring the first two points of Game 3, but Lorimer and Suchecki’s attacking jolted Spring Lake back on top for good.
Robinson finished with two aces, a team-high four blocks and three digs, and Schram had three digs, two blocks and four kills. In her reserve role at setter, Blahnik totaled four assists for the Lakers, who are now 11-5 overall.
Junior Varsity: Spring Lake cruised past Orchard View, 25-12, 25-11. Rachel Pennington paced the Lakers with four aces and three digs. Kelsee Zuidema added four kills, and Karley Engelsman had a block for Spring Lake (7-1-1, 1-0 Lakes Eight).