Spring sports preview: boys volleyball

Duncan MacLean • Apr 3, 2019 at 12:15 AM

One year after the Grand Haven boys volleyball team embarked on their inaugural season, the sport has exploded in West Michigan.

The Bucs ended the season as the best of four teams — beating Allendale, Kalamazoo Christian and Grand Rapids Christian to win the first-ever Michigan boys volleyball league title.

The 2019 season brings triple the challenge, as the league has grown to 12 teams total — stretching from Lansing to the Lakeshore.

The original four will be joined by Bath, Lansing Public, Lowell, Mona Shores, Reeths-Puffer, Grand Rapids South Christian, St. Philip Catholic Central and West Ottawa.

After a haphazard scheduling process last year, offseason meetings and tireless work by Grand Haven’s Aaron Smaka produced a fully formed conference schedule.

The 12 teams will be broken into two conferences. The Lakeshore division will include Grand Haven, Mona Shores, Reeths-Puffer, West Ottawa, Allendale and South Christian, while the remaining teams compete in the Metro division. Both conferences will crown a champion and the two will square off for an overall title at the end of the season.

Grand Haven head coach Jim Vantol said they are “fully expecting” to defend their title. Here’s a deeper look at what to expect from the bumping Buccaneer boys this spring.

Last year: conference champions

Key returners: Aidan Stellema, Ethan Ball, Scott Matthews, Gavin Jonker

Notable newcomers: Max Hartney, Cole Lockman, Reese Chittenden, Gavin Yonker

Team strengths: offense, passing

Areas to improve: serve-receive

Head coach Jim Vantol: “We are going to be ahead of last year skill wise. We have a lot of guys that played all winter and gained a lot of experience and some strong players coming back from last year.

“Aidan Stellema, Ethan Ball, Scott Matthews and Gavin Jonker are coming back and will be some of our strongest players.

“Max Hartney is a new player and is similar to Gavin as an outside hitter with lots of skills. Cole Lockman is out and will be a very good player. Reese Chittenden is a baseball guy and has been playing a lot all winter and is very versatile and Gavin Yonker came out and fell in love with the game after mistakenly getting all the team emails meant for Gavin Jonker last season. He has been playing all winter, too.

“We’re expecting to defend our title.

“We will probably be offensively better than most teams that we play. We have a lot of guys who can hit hard. Passing will be better than I think because of all the experience we have on the floor.

“We aren’t a super-strong serving team yet, but that will come with practice. That and ball control in general are areas to improve, but that is true for any boys team. Serve-receive especially, it is just a tough area to teach.

“We will be pretty good on defense, aside from serve-receive. “

If you want to catch the Bucs in action, their first home contest comes on April 11 as they host a preseason quad match at Grand Haven High School.

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