Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
SPRING LAKE – Whitehall’s volleyball team had more to overcome in Wednesday night’s Division 2 district semifinal than just the six players host Spring Lake put on the floor.
A raucous Lakers student section was fully engaged, in turn firing up their team and making things a little more difficult on the Vikings.
In the end, Whitehall’s poise, experience and senior leadership led to a four-set victory over Spring Lake, 25-19, 24-26, 25-14, 25-17.
Now the Vikings set their sights on winning a second-straight district champion. Whitehall (32-6-1) takes on Fruitport (24-19) in Thursday’s 6 p.m. district finals after the Trojans swept Oakridge in the other semifinal.
“We played great. I thought (Spring Lake’s) ball control was great, so that kind of surprised me. That was a great match. Our outsides were fantastic tonight – I mean, just fantastic. Our setter was great,” Whitehall coach Ted Edsall said. “Our kids hung in there, they’re poised.”
“They’re experienced, they’re composed, they feel good about themselves and their abilities, and it takes some guts, man, because this is a loud place,” Edsall added. “This environment was tough, and those kids just kept their composure. It was great.”
Seniors Rayne Thompson and Charley Klint led Whitehall with 26 and 20 kills, respectively. They were set up by senior Maggie Evans, who totaled 50 assists. Senior Ryleigh Mott totaled 20 digs and two aces, while Thompson added 15 digs and two blocks.
Junior Chase Baker recorded a pair of aces, while freshman Sidney Shepherd had two blocks.
When Edsall was asked about any unsung heroes, he noted the recent play of Baker on the right side. He said she’s brought a lot to the table in the way of serving and defense.
“Everybody in the gym knows where we’re going to set it, and for those kids (Thompson and Klint) to be that productive – they had 26 and 20 kills between them, and that’s just phenomenal,” Edsall said. “And Maggie’s setting was great.”
Sophomore Kalli Lewkowski led Spring Lake with 12 kills and nine digs. Sophomore Ella Andree added nine kills for the Lakers, while senior Kyla Kobylak totaled 26 assists. Freshman Rylee Sabo notched three aces, while seniors Kendra Kieft and Meah Bajt contributed 11 and 10 digs, respectively.
Spring Lake closes the season with a 13-26 record after competing in the tough OK Blue Conference.
“When we have matches like that, that go back and forth in such a game of momentum, you can see that we have a team of six seniors and that leadership kind of shows through – that never-give-up mentality. I thought they fought hard,” Spring Lake coach Cassidy Hazekamp said.
“We didn’t execute our game plan as well as I would have liked to see, but Whitehall’s a great team. They’ve got two big hitters that kept us out of system and really tore our defense apart.”
Whitehall takes aim at a second-straight district title. Last year, the Vikings upset Montague in the district finals at Oakridge without Thompson, who missed the season with a knee injury.
Thompson is as strong as ever, and the West Michigan Conference champion Vikings appear to be on a mission.
“It’s going to be a good match. Spring Lake just beat Fruitport in five. We don’t take anybody lightly,” Edsall said. “Like I said, if we play good, we’ll be in great shape. If we play just OK, it could be a dogfight. We’ll be ready for whatever happens.
“(A district title would) mean a ton to these seniors and that’s what it’s all about. I’ve had a few (district titles). I told them, ‘This is my 35th district. I’ve been in a few of these.’ But this group, Rayne getting hurt last year and we ended up winning a district without her, this means everything to Rayne. Volleyball’s really important to her, really important to these seniors. They’re really volleyball-first kids. For them, I hope we do well.”
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