By Dave Hart
NORTON SHORES – The city volleyball tournament trophy is back where it belongs, as far as Nicole Bayle and her Fruitport Trojans are concerned.
They won the title 10 times in 11 years between 2000 and 2011, and lost in the championship match in 2005. Overall Fruitport has won 14 titles since 1988 and made the tournament finals every year between 1995 and 2011.
But the last couple years have been less successful for the Trojans. That’s why they were so excited to beat Whitehall in the finals Saturday 3-1 at Mona Shores High School to bring the title back to its most familiar home.
The Trojans were impressive in their championship run, winning six of seven total sets and outscoring their opponents 194-161. They beat Reeths-Puffer 2-0 in the quarterfinals and Mona Shores 2-0 in the semifinals.
“I do think in Muskegon County the level of volleyball has increased overall in the last few years,” Bayle said, when asked why it took a few years for her team to reclaim the city title.
“We’ve always been in the top three or so, but we just didn’t have that big kid or the team to finish that big play for us, but we seem to have that this year.”
The tournament title was just the latest feather in the cap for this year’s Trojans, who have an overall 26-14 record and recently clinched the Lakes 8 Conference regular season championship.
Perhaps most impressive is that they won the city tournament while playing without two injured starters – Delaney Bennett and Sam Hoekstra – but still plowed through quality opponents.
“To me that proves we can really trust our bench to come and get the job done,” Bayle said. “It’s great to see some of the kids that don’t get to play that much come in and play in pressure situations and not get rattled. That’s a great feeling for a coach.”
Fruitport won with a nice combination of offense and defense.
Leading the offensive attack were Ally German with 29 kills, Katie Veihl with 19, Alyssa Veihl with 17 and freshman Jordyn Carlyle with 13.
German and Alyssa Veil were also productive at the net, combining for 20 blocks, many of which dropped in for points.
The Trojans were also were strong in the backcourt, digging out shot after shot and keeping the ball in play, despite Whitehall’s best efforts. Alyssa Veihl and Kelsey Schultz each had 40 digs while Lyndsey Ball added 37.
Leading servers were German with seven aces and Shultz with five.
“It feels great,” German said after the finals. “We haven’t won city in a really long time. Winning this might make us competitors, we have grown so much together this season.”
Fruitport defeated Whitehall 25-11, 25-19, 16-25 and 25-23 in the finals.
Fruitport jumped out to a quick 12-4 lead in the first set, propelled by four service points by Schultz and six service points by Rebekah Busscher.
Whitehall rallied but was unable to come closer than seven points.
The Trojans jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set and never trailed. The Vikings cut their deficit to 6-5 after a 5-1 run, but Fruitport responded with a 14-5 run to take control.
The Vikings took their first lead in the finals on the first point of the third set. The score was tied at 4-4 before Whitehall pulled away with a 15-6 run.
Fruitport started the fourth set strong, opening up with a 10-6 lead. The Vikings responded with a 14-10 run to tie the set at 20-20. The teams exchanged two points to keep the score deadlocked at 22-22.
The Trojans closed the set and won the match by scoring three of the final four points, with a kill from Carlyle and a pair of Vikings miscues.
The Vikings were led in the finals by Julie Brown with 12 kills and 10 digs, while Brianna Copley had 12 kills and five service aces.
Whitehall reached the finals by beating Muskegon 2-0, Western Michigan Christian 2-0 and conference rival Montague 2-0.
“Emotionally it’s tough,” said Whitehall Coach Ted Edsall. “We were kind of focused on the win against Montague, which was important toward our conference.
“I was really pleased how hard we played after our first game, we played really hard and we are not that far away and next time we play them we will be quite a bit better.”