By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

RAVENNA – Whitehall has been the dominant volleyball team in the West Michigan Conference for years.

That means other good teams in the league, like Ravenna, have sometimes been overlooked.

But Ravenna Coach Kim Platt knew she might have a winner on her hands this season, with nine seniors returning from last year’s 27-15 team.

“I knew the skill level was there,” Platt said. “It was just a matter of them realizing how strong they could be as a team if they worked together.”

The Bulldogs finished in second place in the West Michigan Conference this fall, and have been playing their best volleyball in the postseason.

They have won five straight matches to capture district and regional championships, beating Kent City, North Muskegon, Western Michigan Christian, Laingsburg and Morley-Stanwood along the way.

Now they’re ready to play for state honors starting Tuesday, when they meet Schoolcraft in the Class C quarterfinals at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix High School at 7 p.m.

If they win they will advance to Thursday’s semifinals at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek at 2 p.m. against the winner of the Roscommon-Calumet quarterfinal match.

The state finals are Saturday at noon at the Kellogg Arena.

While the Bulldogs (33-9) have been good all year, it has been a steady process for the team to put it all together and play at a higher level, according to Platt.

“We got off to kind of a slow start this season,” said Platt, who’s in her second season as varsity coach. “We had to figure out positions at the beginning of the season, and we’ve had a lot of different experiences as far as coming from behind and giving up leads. We’ve learned how to adapt to different situations.”

Platt said her team showed a lot of maturity in the final quad meet of the regular season, in a match against powerful Whitehall. While the Bulldogs lost in three sets, they battled back and made the Vikings earn the win.

It turned out to be a confidence builder for a team on the brink of bigger things.

“Two of our starters were gone that week, and some girls were playing positions they hadn’t played all year,” Platt said. “We lost the first set, and we were behind in the second set by five points, then came back and won. The third set, which usually goes to 15 points, ended up 24-22, something like that. The girls just fought and fought.

“It was an epic battle, a good example of not giving up and working hard for every ball, every play, every point.”

The Bulldogs are led by all-conference standouts Lindsey Jacobs, Dana Kass and Lillian Lieffers.

The rest of the roster includes Lisa VanderWal, Melissa McWatters, Gabby Postema, Audrey Hanson, Amber Jacobs, Terri Bowyer, Jaimie Spoelman, Sydney Hanson, Erica Adams, Emily Crowley, Ryen Huyser and Sabrina Bawcum.