The 48-person team traveled to the Zeeland Aquatic Center on Tuesday for a highly-anticipated rematch from last season, when the Bucs got their first victory over Zeeland in program history.
Grand Haven had no such luck this year, falling to the hosts, 107-79. The Bucs started strong, forcing a tie through the first four events into the diving break, but ran out of depth down the stretch.
“We have a fairly young squad. Zeeland has a fairly young squad and they got an influx of freshmen talent like we did. So, tonight was about looking at our team and learning what we can,” assistant coach Matt Schuchardt said. “Their depth took over in the end, but we swam a good meet.”
Leading the way was Kathryn Ackerman with two individual event victories and two relay wins, including a tremendous comeback on the anchor leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay. The sophomore speedster hit the pool in third place behind two Zeeland relay teams, out splitting her opponents by six and eight seconds to take the win. She was joined by fellow freshmen Georgia Basil and Ocean Veldhouse and sophomore Annah Taylor for a final time of 3:47.85.
The relay’s total time came in just shy of the Division 1 state-qualifying cut, setting them up to take it down early in the season.
Ackerman also touched first in the 50 freestyle, clocking in at 24.05 to win by over one second and the 100 backstroke in 57.47 to win by six seconds. Both times easily broke the state-qualifying standards.
The Bucs kicked off the meet with a win and another near-qualification as Mary Violet Springer, Ackerman, Taylor and Alonna Clark clocked a 1:53.57 in the 200 medley relay, missing out on the cut by just 0.18 seconds.
“That was exciting, great to see so early in the season,” Schuchardt said. “To have two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior be that fast is a great thing.”
Clark went on to take the Bucs’ final win in the 500 freestyle, grinding out a wire-to-wire victory over a talented Zeeland field. She came in at 5:24.77. In her first individual appearance, Clark completed the distance gauntlet, finishing second in the 200 freestyle.
Basil nearly claimed a victory of her own, finishing with two runner-up performances in the 200 individual medley (2:18.41) and 100 butterfly (1:04.51).
Veldhouse grabbed a second-place finish in the 100 freestyle (56.49) to assert herself as a competitive sprinter before joining up with Katalin Kovach, Basil and Clark for a runner-up effort in the 200 freestyle relay (1:46.68).
Kovach did her part individually with a silver-medal finish in the 100 breaststroke, fighting off a double team from Zeeland.
In just their second dual meet of the season, Grand Haven is excited about the possibilities their roster presents and exploring them to their fullest as the season goes on.
“Tonight was about taking a look at what we can do with kids in different events,” Schuchardt said. “We learned more about where our depth is and how we can use it.
“It is a lot of fun to have the freshmen come in, they add a whole different dynamic to the team. This group is competitive and loves to race, so we are excited about them. In the early part of the season now, we are still trying to figure out where we can use them the best.”
The theme of solid veteran leadership combining with young talent holds true in the deep end for Grand Haven, as well.
Senior Stephanie VanNuil led the way finishing third on the 1-meter board with a score of 195.20, while fellow senior Lauren Morgan finished in fourth place in what will be her last meet of the season, due to knee surgery.
“Today, warmups were a little scary, but the meet went a lot better,” Grand Haven diving coach Darrin Driesenga said. “Stephanie did a great job tonight, while Lauren cleaned up some of her dives for a good meet as well, despite sad circumstances.
“We have those two seniors and a couple freshmen who are really coming along. Things are looking good. This is a really hard working team.”
Grand Haven returns to the pool for a non-conference matchup with Hamilton at home on Thursday.