Photos by Scott DeCamp and Rebecca Steinbrook
MONTAGUE – Maggie Evans is generally one of the shorter players on the floor for Whitehall volleyball matches.
She’s also one of the mightiest. Veteran Vikings coach Ted Edsall considers her perhaps the best setter he’s ever had.
Evans and her teammates were on their game Tuesday night in a sweep of hosting rival Montague, 25-9, 25-23, 25-19. The 5-foot-5 senior totaled 51 assists to go along with 12 digs, three aces, three kills and two blocks as the Vikings (20-2) completed a perfect West Michigan Conference regular season at 7-0.
“I’m so happy. We were nervous because, like, it’s hard to beat a team three times and we were coming into it just trying to be humble and not get in over our heads. We’re all so happy,” said Evans, whose team defeated Montague earlier this season during invites at Coopersville and Fruitport.
Evans, who also Whitehall’s all-time leading scorer in soccer, said it means a lot to pull the regular-season sweep of neighboring Montague. The teams could potentially meet again in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament Oct. 16 at Mona Shores and in the conference tourney Oct. 23 at Whitehall.
The Vikings ran their winning streak over reigning league champion Montague to four matches, going back to last season’s Division 2 district finals upset of the Wildcats.
“Especially our senior year, we really wanted to kind of give them the shutout this year, so I think we’re all just super overwhelmed and super happy for everyone,” Evans said.
Tuesday’s victory extended Whitehall’s winning streak to 10 straight dating back to a loss to Division 1 Traverse City West in the Fruitport Invitational. The Vikings’ only other loss this season has come against Division 1 Mona Shores on Sept. 1. They’re currently in the honorable mention category of the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association Division 2 rankings.
Montague (10-22) finishes 5-2 in the regular-season portion of West Michigan Conference play. Fifty percent of the conference title is based upon the regular season with the league tourney counting for the other 50 percent.
The Wildcats lost a strong senior group to graduation following the 2020 season. Coach Shawn Bectel knew there would be some growing pains.
Whitehall and Montague both play challenging nonleague schedules.
“Obviously, we’re young this year, but I felt like we were ready for what they did (Tuesday night),” Bectel said. “I mean, sometimes you just can’t stop things. I thought we made a little too many mistakes down the clutch there, but I mean, they’re a good team, there’s no question. They came to play tonight. We did the best we could to stop them.”
Senior Morgan Netcott led Montague with 19 digs. Junior Anastacia Trevino had six kills and four blocks, while freshman Jaelyn Sundberg tallied 16 assists.
For Whitehall, senior all-stater Rayne Thompson packed the stat sheet with 27 kills, 13 digs, three blocks and two aces. Senior Charley Klint totaled 14 kills and 12 digs. Junior Chase Baker had 10 digs and three aces, while senior Ryleigh Mott added 11 digs.
Edsall said it’s difficult to beat a team three times in one season. He was proud of the way his team played in what can be a tough environment. Montague’s student section was on the opposite end of the court from Whitehall, so the Vikings caught a break that way, the coach said, but he said the Whitehall fans who showed up made a difference.
“It’s great. Our (student section) came late – football players always get here late, but we need ’em. We need ’em,” Edsall said.
“A little-known fact about this year: What helps volleyball is that we stay on one side of the net. If we would have had to switch over in front of those (Montague students), it would have been very difficult.”
Much like Montague relied on a senior-led group last year, Whitehall is doing the same this season.
Along with Thompson, Evans is one of those experienced players Edsall is heavily relying upon. When Evans heard about her coach’s praise, “best setter ever,” she couldn’t help but blush.
“It feels really good,” she said. “I love Ted and he pushes me really hard, so what I do on the court comes from him.”
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