Grand Haven volleyball team battles back from huge hole, falls just short in regionals

By Steve Gunn
LocalSportsJournal.com

EAST KENTWOOD – The Grand Haven volleyball team can say it left everything on the court in its Class A regional final showdown against Rockford on Thursday.LSJ Logo incert

Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough.

Sophia Newhouse (gold) gets the dig for Grand Haven. Photo/Dave Hart

Sophia Newhouse (gold) gets the dig while No. 12 Morgan Ross reacts for Grand Haven. Photo/Dave Hart

The Bucs bravely rallied from a two-set deficit to force a fifth-set tiebreaker against Rockford, an O-K Red Conference foe they lost to three times in the regular season.

Grand Haven jumped out to a three-point lead in the tie-breaker and seemed on the verge of a huge come-from-behind victory, but dropped the final eight points, the set and the match at East Kentwood High School.

The set scores were 15-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20 and 9-15.

The Bucs, who took second place in the tough O-K Red this season, and won their 10th straight district title last week, finished the season with a 48-10 record. Rockford advanced to next week’s Class A state quarterfinals.

“Nobody can say we quit,” said Grand Haven Coach Aaron Smaka. “To be down 2-0 then come back and win the third and fourth set. They gave it everything they could. I’m very proud of them.”

The first two sets of the match had Grand Haven on the ropes.

After dropping the first set by 10 points, the Bucs jumped out to a comfortable lead in the second set, at one point leading 14-7. But Rockford clawed back to force a 22-22 tie, Grand Haven went up by a point, then the Rams won the last three points to take the set and a 2-0 lead.

But Grand Haven wasn’t finished. The Bucs won the next two sets to force the tiebreaker, which is an abbreviated set with the teams playing up to 15 points.

Grand Haven led 6-3 and 9-7, but the Rams rallied to force a 9-9 tie, then won the last six points to put an end to the Bucs’ season.

No. 5 Claire Holman prepares for the Grand Haven serve. Photo/Dave Hart

No. 5 Claire Holman prepares for the Grand Haven serve. Photo/Dave Hart

‘It was just a battle throughout,” said Smaka, who is losing eight seniors from this year’s team. “We didn’t pass as well at the end. But for us to push it to five, I’m real proud of our effort for that. It would have been real easy for our kids to fold. I think every kid in that locker room thought we were going to win the fifth.”

Freshman Ashley Slater had a great night for Grand Haven, leading her team with 14 kills. Sophomore Avolyn Lepo added 10 kills while senior Katie Cole had 44 assists.

“Grand Haven is a great team,” said Rockford Coach Kelly Delacher. “They have a lot of talent and a lot of weapons, a similar team to us.”

Kendra DeJonge paced the Rams with 16 kills.

 

 

 

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