Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
SPRING LAKE – The Fruitport volleyball team’s theme this season is “Back on the map.”
The Trojans have an opportunity to do that Thursday night, when they’ll face Whitehall in a Division 2 district championship match at 6 p.m. at Spring Lake High School.
Fruitport earned a spot in the district finals with a three-game sweep Wednesday of Oakridge, 25-20, 25-17, 25-22.
“Hey, I’m super excited – very excited, we’re back in the district finals again. I think this team deserves that,” said Fruitport coach Nicole Bayle, whose team brings a 24-19 overall record into Thursday’s match.
“Our theme this year has been ‘Back on the map,’ and this is one of our big goals is to come back to be a district champion, to fight and battle for that, so we’re very excited to be back in that spot again. Like I said, I think these girls deserve that.”
Fruitport is vying for its first district title since 2017, when the Trojans won on their home court against Whitehall.
The Vikings enter the district finals with a 32-6-1 record after a four-game victory over Spring Lake.
In the lone regular-season meeting, Whitehall defeated shorthanded Fruitport, 25-17, 25-15, on Oct. 21.
“We were broken and mended and falling apart, so we haven’t played them with our starting six,” Bayle said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to do that.”
In the win over Oakridge, Fruitport rallied in the third game to complete the sweep.
Bayle said she’s seen those comeback tendencies from her team during the regular season, but she was encouraged to see it again during the state tournament.
“I said to our kids, ‘We have been in a ton of close matches this year,’ and sometimes we put ourselves in that spot (when) we really should not be in that spot. It doesn’t matter, we’ve had a ton of those games where we’re under 20, the (opponent) is at 20 or above, and we come back and win in most of them,” she said.
“Just pumping them with that energy to know that they’re capable of coming back, they’re capable of doing that. We can make those smart, educated volleyball skills in a tight spot like that, so it feels really good as a coach to see them do that in the playoffs because we’ve been doing that in the season. But you really need to do it at the end of the season when it matters.”
Senior Kylie Rudolph led Fruitport with nine kills and 20 digs. Junior Raegan Dykstra totaled 24 assists for the Trojans, while senior Anna Bol and junior Kayla Kolberg had 21 and 11 digs, respectively. Senior Sydney Woods had five aces, freshman Sadie Woods notched five blocks, while Kolberg and senior Hope Busscher added two aces apiece.
For Oakridge, Saidee Raap led the way with six kills, three aces and three blocks. Bri Benson had seven kills and five digs, while Lily Blackburn recorded five. Delaney Ruel amassed 20 assists and six digs, and Brooklyn Galdeen had six digs and three blocks. Jasmine Pastor and Haley Seewald added four digs each.
“They were playing tough that third game — they didn’t want to go home, they didn’t want to lose; I mean, they didn’t want to lose the first two games,” Oakridge coach Robert Rieger said. “I think at one point (in the third game), with the starters all being in there and getting a little tired, they just started making a couple mental errors.”
Rieger estimated that his team finished a few games over .500 this season.
The Eagles placed fourth in the recent West Michigan Conference tournament, and Rieger said they continued to compete this season despite mounting injuries and illness.
“I got the job very late in the season – actually, the Friday before tryouts started – and I think being able to watch the girls over (in the coming) summer and taking them to camps, I think that’s going to help us out a lot next year,” Rieger said.
“You know, I’m super proud of all the girls that came out. … We have five great seniors that played really well together.”
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