By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
Sun bleached the scoreboard, while reflections of waves pulsated all around the court.
Strange, yet pleasant, juxtapositions stood shoulder-to-shoulder Wednesday afternoon in Grand Haven, with the second-annual outdoor volleyball match that puts some of the area’s best volleyball programs – the sixth-ranked team in Class A, Grand Haven, perennial-power Fruitport, the streaking Spring Lake Lakers (8-2-1), and the emotive Mona Shores Sailors – atop two volleyball courts at the city’s Waterfront Stadium, this year dubbing the event the Battle of the Boardwalk.
“There is no better venue than Waterfront Stadium!” exclaimed Spring Lake coach Sarah Bulthuis. “This might be my new favorite event in the last 27 years of coaching. This was an awesome event for the players to participate in as well as the fans to watch.”
Last year’s event, held atop Mona Shores’ track/football field, suffered from a late start, as condensation forming in the evening air settled on the courts. Play was forced inside the gym, though the excited fans didn’t seem to mind.
This year, where typically crowds gather to watch Grand Haven’s famed Musical Fountains, the four schools squared off in three rounds, which were dominated by the hosts. The Bucs dropped the Sailors 25-11, 25-20 in Round 1, Fruitport 25-19, 25-13 in Round 2 and then faced off with Spring Lake, which also entered the final round 2-0.
The Lakers defeated Fruitport 25-22, 25-22 in Round 1, and Mona Shores 25-23, 26-24.
In the finals, the Lakers failed to even challenge the Bucs, so strong is the Bucs’ play at the net and ability to shutdown opponents’ attacks. The home crowd cheered as Grand Haven dismantled its rival 25-18, 25-15.
Bulthuis was satisfied with what she saw.
“(We) had a positive showing,” she said. “The windy conditions made things tricky so we tried to keep the ball lower in passing and setting. I thought we adjusted well to keep the ball in play. We had to fight to win two close matches. Nothing came easy.
And the win over the Trojans was particularly rewarding.
“It has been a long time since we last beat Fruitport,” said Bulthuis. “We have won sets in the past but not the match.”
Spring Lake scores –
Spring Lake d. Fruitport 25-22, 25-22
Spring Lake d. Mona Shores 25-23, 26-24
Grand Haven d. Spring Lake 25-18, 25-15
Spring Lake stats
ACES: Lydia Suchecki 8, Courtney Kyser 5. KILLS: Kelsee Zuidema 17, Suchecki 8, Kyser 5. ASSISTS: Karley Engelsman 42. DIGS: Rachel Pennington 24, Maya Denslow 15.