By Adam Knorr
Local Sports Journal
WHITEHALL – Quality high school sports programs produce a steady supply of skilled younger players who can step in when necessary and keep winning traditions alive.
That’s been the case for the Whitehall volleyball team this year. Various injuries and ailments decimated the lineup throughout the fall, creating opportunities for several underclassmen who have helped carry the load.
But those young players still require strong leadership, and that comes from the team’s talented and experienced captains – Rachel Brown and Alyssa Myers.
The two standouts helped Whitehall overcome the injury bug to clinch its seventh consecutive West Michigan Conference championship this season. The Vikings nailed down the title last weekend with a four-game victory over Ravenna in the finals of the league tournament.
Now the Vikings (30-13-0 overall, 10-0 in the conference) will turn their attention to the state tournament, which begins next week with districts. They reached the district finals last fall but lost a tough match to Spring Lake.
“We may not be a final four team (in the state), but we’re hoping to become a state-ranked team by the end of the season,” said Myers, whose team will open Class B district play Monday against Orchard View on its home court.
The 2014 season has been more of a struggle than usual for the Viking volleyballers, with injuries and illness decimating the lineup.
“At one time, we had four sophomores and a freshman playing in our group of eight,” said Whitehall head coach Ted Edsall. “We’re young, but those players got a lot of playing time and experience which will help in the future.”
Brown and Myers have completed the puzzle with their highly developed skills and leadership abilities.
They’ve both been dominant on the court this fall.
Brown has been the go-to player for the Vikings this year. Despite spraining her ankle earlier in the season, she has amassed 71 aces, 224 kills, 90 blocks and 162 digs.
“You always have to stay positive when you’re trying to lead a team, and that’s what I’m usually trying to do,” said Brown, a senior.
Edsall calls Brown one of the premier players in the area.
“She’s one of the better hitters and blockers,” he said. “She’s a really good front row player. She’s had a really solid offensive season and her back row skills have developed.”
Myers, a junior and three-year varsity starter, has posted 60 aces, 190 kills, 254 digs and 526 assists from her setter position.
Myers played both varsity volleyball and softball as a freshman in 2012. But she decided to focus on developing her volleyball skills and dropped softball.
“It was even before I started playing softball that volleyball was really what caught my attention,” Myers said. “I knew from that point on I wanted to play collegiate volleyball.”
Edsall said Myers is versatile on the court, and has excelled at several different positions when called upon.
“She has set, hit outside, now she’s back setting,” the coach said. “The most important thing is how much she’s improved over the years. Alyssa fills the stat sheet every night, whether it’s serving, setting or defensively.”