The Lakers will advance to play Whitehall on Saturday at 10 a.m. for the Division 2 district championship. The Vikings breezed past Orchard View in straight sets in the opening game of the evening to advance to the title game.
"I thought we did a really nice job of staying consistent on our side," said Spring Lake head coach Cassidy Hazekamp. "We made a few more unforced errors than we normally do, but we also haven't played a match in two weeks, so that was something we were just going to have to work through. We knew stepping onto the court for a playoff game after that much time off wasn't going to be easy.
"Despite that, I thought we did a nice job of staying in system. The one set we lost, we were in a little bit of a funk. They also served really well during that stretch and we couldn't pass well consistently enough to get out of that hole."
Montague presented a sizable challenge for the Lakers, as the Wildcats possessed some talented middle blockers along the front of the net. To counter that strength, the Lakers had to get creative with their shot selection.
"Our biggest goal was to serve well enough that we took their two middles (blockers) out of their attack," said Hazekamp. "They've got a couple of talented kids up front, and we wanted to take those two options out of the way for them. To do that, we had to switch up our shots and make sure we kept them moving, so they couldn't run their offense through those two. We used a good variety of shots to keep them on their heels and not get too comfortable up there."
Besides the change of pace in shot selection, the Lakers also made life difficult when the Wildcats tried to attack. Spring Lake finished the match with 15 blocks as a team, with most resulting in a big momentum shift in a given set.
"We've got tall girls, especially in the middle, so we always want to take advantage of that and get some big blocks at the net," added Hazekamp. "It helps our defense out when we block shots like that and puts the other team in a position where they have to adjust."
Spring Lake senior Jenna Core recorded 16 kills to lead the Laker attack, while Abbi Perkins added 13 kills and three service aces, and Madeline Zenas kept the offense running smoothly with 42 assists.
Defensively, Core and Lauren Cooper each recorded 16 digs, while Perkins and Zenas each had five blocks. Core and Alicia Mumby also added three blocks at the net to add to the Lakers' block party.
"Jenna had some big kills for us tonight and Abbi Perkins really stepped up huge for us in some big spots," added Hazekamp. "We also had Alicia Mumby, a junior varsity call-up, in our starting rotation tonight, too, and she really dominated at the net."
Spring Lake will look to win their first district title since 2013, as they prepare for a talented and red-hot Whitehall squad that has already knocked off No. 8 Fruitport in the district opener.
The Lakers already have a three-set win over the Vikings during a tri-meet on Sept. 27, but a lot has changed for both teams during that stretch.
"We beat them in a really close, three-set match a little over a month ago," Hazekamp said of the Vikings. "Both of us have changed our lineups and playing styles a little bit since then, so it's a different look for both teams.
"Districts is always tough for us because there's usually a lot of good teams in the mix. We haven't gotten out of it since 2013, so to advance to the finals is exciting. Whitehall is playing great right now. We saw them play Tuesday and we know they are talented, so it's going to be another big challenge for us."