By Dave Hart
Local Sport Journal
COOPERSVILLE – The Whitehall volleyball team did fine in districts without their injured standout senior Rachel Brown.
Now she’s back and they’re playing even better.
Brown, who severely sprained her ankle during warm-ups before a district match, had 18 kills and two aces Tuesday to lead Whitehall to a 3-1 victory over Grant in the Class B regional semifinals at Coopersville High School.
The Vikings, who last won a regional championship in 2012, will attempt to repeat that feat against Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern Thursday at 6 p.m. in Coopersville.
“It is good to have Rachel Brown back, she played phenomenal,” said Whitehall coach Ted Edsall, whose team improved to 35-15-3 on the season. “We served and passed the best that we have in about a month.”
“I love it,” said Brown about returning to the lineup. “We were a little nervous at first, we have a young team, but we focused together as a team.”
Whitehall closed the first game with a 15-8 run to seal an exciting 26-24 victory.
Grant grabbed a 12-5 lead in the second game, the Vikings made a late 16-11 run, but the Tigers held on for a 25-21 win.
The turning point of the match came in the third game with the score tied 15-15. Whitehall, with strong play in front of the net by Brown, Melissa Shoup and Lauren Lopez, went on a 10-4 run to steal a 25-19 victory.
The momentum stayed on the Vikings’ side in the fourth game. They jumped out to a quick 12-4 lead with seven straight serving points by Alyssa Myers, then Brown closed out the 25-13 win with a massive spike.
Myers finished with 46 assists, two aces and 11 digs for Whitehall. Brianna Copley added three aces and eight digs, while Julie Brown had nine kills, three aces and seven digs.
Grant Coach Tricia Schuitema said several players were ill and her team did not perform at peak level.
“We didn’t pass well at all,” said Schuitema, whose team has won four straight district titles but fallen short in regionals each year. “We played a couple of girls who were dog sick and tonight was a battle we did not have enough energy for.”
Grant finished the season with a 31-17-1 record.
Laura Bouwkamp had 10 kills and 15 digs for the Tigers. Emily Gabrielse added 19 digs while Dana Wood contributed 8 kills and 12 digs.