Through the first 30 points of their O-K Blue Conference showdown, Spring Lake seemed lost, but stalwart senior leadership and cool heads prevailed down the stretch. After falling far behind early, the Lakers roared back for a close loss in Set 1 before ripping off three convincing wins to take a four-set victory, 22-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-16.
“We had a lot of unforced errors at the net, we missed a lot of serves, we just didn’t bring our best today,” said Spring Lake head coach Cassidy Hazekamp. “We were not prepared when we stepped on the court. Even our warm-ups were slow.
“We did make some lineup changes for the second set, but honestly, it was more of a senior leadership thing that turned things around. The seniors on this team have that experience we needed and they have the desire to win. They lead this team in a way we really haven’t had before.”
The slow start wasn’t all due to lack of focus. Back-to-school sickness is in the air and the Lakers were hit hard this week.
“I don’t like to make excuses in general, and I do not ever make excuses for my team, but we are sick,” Hazekamp said. “We have something going around. You can tell how lethargic and just worn down they are. ‘Tis the season, we just have to work through it.”
The start was as ugly as advertised. Absent communication, sporadic hitting and poor serving put the Lakers in an early 17-10 hole. The seven-point deficit held as the Panthers gained momentum. Down 20-13, Spring Lake finally made a move, taking nine of the next 14 points to close the gap to 22-24. Comstock Park would take the final point, but the Lakers were back on track.
Set 2 saw a reinvented Laker squad take the court, but Comstock Park was far from finished. After laboring to a 10-10 tie, Spring Lake took a timeout and hit the gas. A 17-14 lead drew a fruitless timeout from Comstock Park as the Lakers chugged to a 20-15 lead, triggering another Panther stop. The break was just what the hosts ordered as they rolled to a 26-16 victory on the other side, tying the score at 1-1.
Spring Lake continued the pace in the third set, jumping out to a 10-4 lead, before charging to a 25-13 win.
The Panthers mounted some resistance in the decisive fourth set, using a hot serving streak and a few Laker errors to take a slim 7-5 lead. Spring Lake countered to take a 10-9 lead and never looked back, taking five of the final seven points of the game for their 25-16 win.
Jenna Core led the turnaround for the Lakers on offense and defense, racking up a team-high 20 kills and a second-best 15 digs. Fellow senior Madeline Zenas handled the passing with 40 of the team’s 44 total assists, while chipping in 13 digs and 11 kills.
Megan Vanderheide led the defense with 16 kills, entering the game in the second set as part of the Lakers’ pivotal lineup changes. Julia Clover did the same, racking up 12 digs.
Abbi Perkins led from the service line with four aces.
“Jenna Core is always consistent. She is our even-keeled scorer, and we need that on the left side,” Hazekamp said. “She had a great match offensively and she was a big part of the turnaround.
“Megan Vanderheide had a great night for us in the back row. She stepped into the second set and dug like crazy. Her and Julia Clover had great defensive games. Their serve receive was great and that’s exactly what we needed.”
As far as wins go, it wasn’t the prettiest the Lakers have put together, but any success in the O-K Blue is well earned this season.
“Hopefully, this was a lesson to the girls that we can’t just walk through this,” Hazekamp said. “Any team in our conference is going to bring their best against us, so we have to as well.
“Comstock Park is probably the middle of the pack in the conference, but any win in our conference is a good one, so we will take it.”
The win improves Spring Lake to 18-4-1 overall and 3-1 in conference. They are scheduled to return to the court Thursday at Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Junior varsity: Spring Lake defeated Comstock Park, 2-0.
The Lakers were led offensively by Alicia Mumby with five kills, four service aces and two blocks, while Lorena Deygas had four kills, two service aces and one block and Taylor Gates led the team defensively with eight digs and two service aces. The Lakers improve to 9-3 overall and 3-1 in the O-K Blue.