Every winning team has a key to their fortune. This year, two Buccaneer squads unlocked successful seasons with the scoring potential of one Alli Keyser.
The sophomore point-hoarder led both the soccer and basketball teams in scoring over her freshman and sophomore seasons, setting her apart as a special athlete.
The Bucs’ key to success was given O-K Red All-Conference and All-District honors for her efforts on the soccer pitch as well as All-Conference first-team honors on the hardwood.
Despite her high-octane scoring rate, both Keyser’s coaches praised her demeanor in games and at practice as her best quality. The young star has displayed quiet, nurturing leadership skills as an underclassman and seems ready to truly take the reigns of Grand Haven athletics in the back half of her high school career.
Keyser took the Grand Haven basketball program by storm in her freshman season, starting at point guard, leading the team in scoring with an average of 14.9 points per game and securing the team’s first All-Conference honors for a freshman in over 20 years. Beat that? She did.
“As a sophomore, she picked up right where she left off,” Grand Haven head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “All her stats were better. She really took her game to the next level.”
In her sophomore season, Keyser averaged a team-high 15.9 points per game, shot 35 percent from downtown, led the team in assists with 78 total (3.5 per game), in steals with 59 total (3.1 per game) and grabbed 49 total rebounds (2.2 per game).
The team finished second in the O-K Red behind big-bad East Kentwood, with marquee wins over Rockford and Hudsonville, while Keyser captured her second All-Conference recognition. She averaged 16 points per game in the league, finishing as the second-leading scorer in the conference.
“Her speed, she has crazy speed, and her skill set, her ability to get to the rim and shoot the outside shot and lock down opposing guards on defense, I really can’t say enough about her,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “She just wants to win, always.
“She had a great freshman year and last year developed into a floor leader for us. She gets it done on both ends of the floor and leads by example. She always wants to win, she has a lot of grit. You can’t teach what she brings to the floor.”
Her leadership, even as an underclassman player, is always on display, merely in the way she carries herself and her teammates.
“She is a natural leader, you don’t have to have captain written behind your name to be a leader,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “It is natural for her, she is intense and encouraging of her teammates and is a true team player.”
Keyser had a similar affect on the soccer program at Grand Haven, emerging during her freshman season as a premiere scorer at the forward position. In her sophomore year, first-year head coach Yvonne McKessy tailored the Bucs’ offense to feed the hungry competitor, almost exclusively.
After leading the team in goals as a freshman, in her sophomore season Keyser netted 18 to lead once again, while chipping in seven assists.
“Part of it is the formation, she played high top and we had an attacking middie that would basically just feed her the ball, so it was by design,” McKessy said. “She plays almost every minute of every game because she never stops. She never gives you a reason to take her out. Her work ethic is incredible.”
The sophomore sensation teamed up with another fresh star in 2017: freshman Jennifer Dear. The two scored a healthy majority of the Bucs’ goals this season using tremendous chemistry and unselfish attitudes.
“A big reason for her success sophomore year was us having more opportunities to score,” McKessy said. “We made a combination of her and Jennifer Dear, an incredibly talented freshman. They were able to feed off each other and we decided early on that the two of them would make their own chemistry.
“Seeing them play together was a blast, they make an incredible team.”
Dear finished the season with 12 assists and six goals of her own, nearly all assisted by Keyser.
“There are a lot of players who come on strong as freshmen, then in their sophomore year feel threatened by another good freshman,” McKessy said. “Keyser embraced it and became a great mentor. There was definitely some magic, the two of them made sure stuff happened.”
That unselfish and nurturing leadership is central to Keyser’s game, allowing her to seamlessly take over leadership of a varsity team. Her ability to share her skills and learn from her teammates, regardless of age, has allowed her to take her and her team’s game to the next level.
“She makes the other players really want to work hard for her, she is very unselfish. She looks for the goal and the pass. Typically in a player like her they are looking for a goal or to pass, she looks for both,” McKessy said. “It helps you focus on other areas because she is so good.
“The challenge comes from other teams now, they always look to double team her. She is so smart, knowing if she has two defenders, Jenny (Dear) probably has none and she makes the smart decision.”
After tough losses in the district tournament for both the basketball and soccer teams, postseason goals for Keyser will be easy to keep straight. Reeths-Puffer eliminated the Bucs in the district semifinal round on the hardwood, while neighbor Mona Shores took them out in the finals on the pitch.
With Keyser elevating her game in the offseason by playing AAU basketball as well as Premiere 1 level club soccer, and truly talented team members doing the same, both coach Kowalczyk-Fulmer and McKessy are optimistic about their impending seasons.
“I don’t want to say too much about the team, because you never know what will happen, but our team has high goals,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “Our kids want to make a run in the tournament, they want to compete for a conference title, and we haven’t made it out of the district in a little while. These girls, especially Alli, know this team over the next couple of years has a chance to be pretty good.”
“There are so many girls that are coming up on our soccer team that are going to be hard to deal with for that Grandville coach,” McKessy said.
As Keyser navigates transitioning into the role of team veteran, it is safe to say her hard offseason work will not go unrewarded. With both of her coaches praising her club play, Grand Haven’s scoring star will continue to shoot in the coming year, and isn’t likely to miss. Be sure to catch her while she is in town, this young athlete is destined to shine above and beyond the high school level.