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Fruitport girls tennis punches ticket to fourth straight state finals

Alec Brzezinski • Yesterday at 12:15 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — The Fruitport girls tennis team earned its fourth straight trip to state finals Friday, finishing second to Cadillac in its Division 3 regional at Spring Lake.

The Trojans dominated play early, swiftly moving through their brackets in almost every flight. Fruitport made it to the regional final in six of eight flights, while No. 1 singles Trinity Busscher and No. 4 singles Hannah Kelly won their respective flights.

Busscher, the top-seed among No. 1 singles, was forced to wait nearly two hours in between her first and second match, meaning she had to remain focused against a tough foe in Ludington’s Lindsey Holmes.

“One of the challenges, particularly in the singles, was the long waits in between matches,” said Fruitport head coach Brad Busscher. “Trinity and Hannah both had long wait periods in between their first and second matches. There is a mental toughness associated to always preparing and getting ready.

“You could see that once they warmed up and got settled into their matches, they were making quality shots and produced excellent tennis, while falling into a rhythm. They are both really good players who add to our overall team success.”

Despite the long layoff, Busscher won the semifinal match 6-1, 6-1, setting up a finals bout against Coopersville’s Bailey Gilbert.

“My first match against Fremont forced me to get my strokes down, so I could be ready for my second match against Ludington,” Busscher said. “I knew that one would be really tight. I got into a rhythm and won my first two matches. Once I faced Coopersville, everything was clicking for me.”

Reaching the state finals is always special in any high school sport, but Busscher has come to expect long seasons after qualifying for state finals all four years at Fruitport.

“I love it, I couldn’t imagine any other end to the season,” Busscher said. “Going to the state finals is just a part of my season routine, now. It’s an extra two weeks I get to play tennis.”

Kelly, also a flight winner Friday, looked calm and collected under pressure. She earned comfortable wins of 6-0, 6-0 and 6-2, 6-0, setting up a finals clash against Cadillac. Kelly breezed past Cadillac’s Olivia Outman 6-1, 6-1, with a number of power serves and neat backhands.

Showcasing their dominance all day, the Trojans sent all four of their singles competitors to the regional finals matches. Although No. 2 singles Haleigh Winskas and No. 3 singles Olivia Parling ultimately lost, they played smart, strong tennis all day to help earn their team more points.

Fruitport’s No. 1 doubles tandem of Emily Dirkse and Alison Blakeman lost 6-4, 6-3, in the regional finals to Cadillac after cruising past Ludington and Spring Lake in their first two matches. The Trojans’ No. 2 doubles pairing of Hannah Labash and freshman Hope Busscher also reached the finals, losing a nail-biting match 6-4, 7-5, to Cadillac.

“The team made qualifying for state finals one of their goals (to begin the season),” coach Busscher said. “It’s one thing to say it and it’s another to do it. I’m proud of the determination and leadership they showed this season.

“You have to beat some really good teams to make it to the (regional) finals. We were forced to step up our game today.”

Played entirely on the honor system, with athletes calling their own points, Busscher was proud of his team for playing with integrity throughout the season.

“I really love the fact that this is a group that demonstrated great character on the court,” he said. “I’ve never had another coach approach me and tell me he didn’t like the calls my team made. This is a quality group, and they set the standards.”

Fruitport will now travel to Novi on May 31 and June 1 to compete in its fourth straight state finals. The only problem is that Fruitport’s graduation conflicts with state finals.

“We’re going to look at that. We’ll play some early-day matches and then make some decisions,” Busscher said on the conflict between state finals and Fruitport graduation.

Spring Lake

The Lakers were unable to reach the same heights as Fruitport on Friday, but they battled hard in every match.

No. 3 doubles Erika McSheehy and Taylor Gates represented the only athletes from Spring Lake in the regional finals. After cruising through their first two duos, 6-0, 6-0 and 6-4, 6-2, Spring Lake ran out of gas a bit late in the afternoon, falling to Cadillac in a hard-fought battle.

“It was an especially nice moment for Erika,” Spring lake head coach Jodi Stoll said. “This was a great way for her to finish the season. You could tell (we) were tired, both sides were tired. It could have gone either way, but it didn’t go Spring Lake’s way today.

“We go into every match with no expectations. We place no emphasis on winning, so we don’t pay much attention to scoring. We didn’t even no we were undefeated for a while in conference, and we didn’t even know we finished second in conference until the next day. Once you take that pressure off, I think the girls become more confident in themselves.”

Although the Lakers failed to qualify for state finals, they can hold their heads high after an impressive season that saw them finish second in the O-K Blue Conference.

“We just had tough competition (Friday), but we still played really well,” Stoll said. “Cadillac is an amazing team, and Coopersville really came out fighting. Scores can be misleading. We never let anyone walk over us today; we fought hard and put in great work. The whole team has been very impressive this season.”

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