Grand Haven downs Mona Shores in three sets, wins 11th straight district title

By Andrew Johnson
LocalSportsJournal.com

GRAND RAPIDS – Another Class A district volleyball final, another Grand Haven district championship.

The Buccaneers defeated Mona Shores in straight sets on Thursday, by scores of 25-16, 25-19 and 25-9, to claim their 11th straight Class A district championship, and 15th in the past 16 years, at Grand Rapids Northview High School.

Grand Haven’s No. 13 Avolyn Lepo and No. 4 Ashley Slater block Mona Shores at the net. Photo/Jason Goorman

But this year was a little different, because Grand Haven has a younger team that has experienced some growing pains, so success in districts was no certainty. The Bucs lost to Mona Shores twice earlier this season.

But on Thursday the Bucs were in top form when it really mattered.

“We hadn’t played them since the boardwalk,” said Grand Haven head coach Aaron Smaka, referring to his team’s lack of success against Mona Shores in an early-season outdoor tournament. “The boardwalk is always weird to me. But they beat us and we were 0-2 going into tonight. But we knew that we had grown since then.”

Smaka said his team does not overemphasize the district championship streak, even though it says a lot about the consistent quality of the Grand Haven program.

“I just think every year we look at it as new,” the coach said. “We’ve never talked about the streak, but I think this is the best we’ve played (this season) on a consistent basis tonight.”

Jaizah Pyle chips a shot over Grand Haven’s Kelly Kouw. Photo/Jason Goorman

Mona Shores gave the Bucs a battle in the early minutes of the match, playing to a 13-13 tie in the first set, before Grand Haven scored 12 of the final 15 points.

Senior Olivia Boeve had six kills and one ace in the first set to lead Grand Haven. Sophomore Ashley Slater had three kills.

In set 2, the Sailors only trailed by one, 17-16, before the Buccaneers scored eight of the final 11 points. Boeve had five kills in the set while Slater had three.

Grand Haven dominated the third and final set. The Buccaneers took control right away by jumping out to a 15-2 lead, with Boeve leading the charge with six service aces.

“It was amazing,” Boeve said about her streak of aces. “I just kept on wanting to win so much that it willed me to keep on doing it.”

Boeve totaled 13 kills while Slater had six. Baby Hang led Grand Haven defensively with 15 digs.

“It’s amazing,” Boeve said about going 4-for-4 in district championship matches in her varsity career. “I love this program. We do a great job of always getting better. Somehow our coaches seem to be able to take anybody and make them into district champs.”

“It means a lot,” Slater said about helping her senior teammates win yet another district title. “It’s really awesome and cool that I have a chance to play and help the team and these seniors accomplish what they want.”

Grace Hellman led Mona Shores with six kills.

Grand Haven will face either Grand Rapids Christian or Caledonia at 5 p.m. on Tuesday in the Class A regional semifinals at Jenison High School.

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