The Lakers and Grand Rapids West Catholic split their pair of O-K Blue Conference meetings this season, setting things up for a wild regional semifinal on election night. Spring Lake led the polls all the way, winning 3-0 by scores of 25-22, 26-24, 25-14.
“It was one of our long-term goals at the beginning of the season to make it here, but in August, it was questionable for me whether or not these kids could get here,” said Spring Lake head coach Cassidy Hazekamp. “So, it feels great. To see their progress and determination has been amazing. Their work ethic is unreal.”
Though it only lasted three sets, Tuesday’s matchup tested that lauded work ethic for the Lakers as the Falcons brought everything they had on their short trip across town, entirely disrupting Spring Lakes’ game plan.
“One of our goals was to pass consistently, and we did not do that,” Hazekamp said. “West Catholic served really tough tonight, and we struggled to stay in system on serve-receive. Luckily for us, we kept the ball in play with good defense and were able to terminate the ball after that.
“We talked about keeping short rallies and terminating early, and we didn’t do that either. Luckily, we were able to pick up some good points in the end and pull it off.”
It wasn’t all chaos for Spring Lake, though, as their front line dominated the net with a nearly unbreakable block.
“Blocking was another goal for us and we did that really well tonight,” Hazekamp added. “We read their setters, read their hitters, we did a really nice job at the net.”
Mentality put the Lakers over the edge Tuesday, as they refused to let any ball drop unattended, including a few dives into the bleachers and layouts on the court. The energy from those chaos points built momentum, which was key in crunch time as Sets 1 and 2 came down to the wire.
“We talked a lot about bettering the ball,” Hazekamp said. “Whatever you do, make the ball better for the next person. We did a great job of that and just staying scrappy to get balls up and put them away.
“Finishing close sets wasn’t something we were very good at the beginning of the season, so seeing that leadership come from my seniors is really cool. That says a lot about their character and work ethic.”
Those seniors led in more than just morale points, as Jenna Core secured 10 kills and a team-high 14 digs, while Madeline Zenas continued her role as the near lone setter for the Lakers with 38 assists to go with four blocks.
Two young superstars have emerged alongside the senior leaders, as junior outside hitter Abbi Perkins and sophomore Alicia Mumby made healthy contributions to the stat sheet in both kills and blocks. Perkins led the team with 14 kills to go with four blocks, while Mumby also chipped in four blocks.
Everyone was working together early, enabling the Lakers to hit the ground running in Set 1, jumping out to a 10-5 lead with a few booming kills by Perkins and Core and strong blocks. They would grow their lead to 16-10 before the Falcons started pushing back.
A few mental miscues through the middle of the set let West Catholic back in the game, tying it up at 22-22. Mumby, who played the regular season as a member of the junior varsity team, executed a deft tip and a stalwart block for back-to-back points to spur the Lakers to their 25-22 win.
Set 2 was even throughout, with ties at 3-3, 8-8 and 16-16. West Catholic opened a slim lead heading down the stretch, taking two straight points for a 21-19 edge, forcing a Laker timeout.
Spring Lake rallied out the timeout, taking a slim 23-22 lead before the Falcons forced extras. After their dramatic 30-point set in the district finals, the Lakers weren’t interested in a show, closing out the set with a block and a kill by Core, 26-24.
With their season on the line, West Catholic faltered, and the Lakers trotted out to an 8-0 lead. The closest they would come was a seven-point deficit at 17-10, as Spring Lake cruised to their sweep with a 25-14 mark in Set 3.
Now, they turn their attention to the regional finals. Grand Rapids Christian destroyed Coopersville in their accompanying semifinal, winning 3-0 by scores of 25-9, 25-16 and 25-21.
Coopersville swept their two O-K Blue meeting with the Lakers this season, winning both by scores of 3-0. The Eagles’ dominance isn’t unexpected, as they made a run to the state quarterfinals in the Division 1 tournament last season before being bumped down to Division 2 for 2018.
First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Grand Rapids Christian High School in the Quest Center gymnasium. The winner will take on the winner of Hamilton and Edwardsburg in the state quarterfinals.