Before it’s barely time to start buying notebooks and binders, high school sports across the state officially started on Monday. For student-athletes, many have spent their summer honing their skills with teammates. For coaches, with first games on the horizon, it can be tricky trying to build a roster and dive straight into practices.
The Spring Lake volleyball team again will aim for a regional appearance in the state tournament after making the regional finals last year. They were beaten by eventual state champion Grand Rapids Christian. Head coach Cassidy Hazekamp is upbeat about getting back into the gym with tryouts starting on Wednesday.
“I am very excited to get started this week,” Hazekamp said. “We had a full summer of volleyball and I am eager to get in the gym and start working with this group of girls. We have a young group this year, but they have quite a bit of volleyball experience coming in as such a young group.”
With Battle at the Boardwalk coming up over Labor Day weekend, the Lakers will head to Reeths-Puffer before traveling south for a pair of matches at Hamilton H.S. This week, Hazekamp will conduct tryouts before settling on a roster and preparing for the opening weeks.
“We graduated eight seniors last year, which is a huge number for a volleyball program,” Hazekamp said. “We have a few returners coming back that will help set the tone. I am expecting a lot out of my seniors this year as far as leadership and holding their teammates to some pretty high expectations.”
Veterans Abbi Perkins and Madalyn Lisman will be expected to lead the way for this year’s Lakers, while newcomer Alicia Mumby moved to the varsity roster during last year’s playoff run and has impact potential.
“We are going to really have to amp up the pace of practice and the tempo of our offense in order to be able to compete with our conference and district teams,” Hazekamp said. “I am really hoping to see Abbi and Madalyn develop into the vocal leaders that we need on the court.”
Head coach Aaron Smaka and his Grand Haven team are on the hunt for another run in the state tournament after making the regional finals in two of the last three years.
Ashley Slater returns for her senior season after earning third-team all-state honors last year. She'll lead a Buccaneers team that has an interesting mix of youth and experience after losing players to Oakland University and Lake Superior State University last fall.
"She's a hard worker," Smaka said last year following Slater's nomination. "It's fun to think about all she'll accomplish as a senior."