By Dave Hart
NORTON SHORES – The Mona Shores volleyball team rose to the challenge when it had to on Tuesday, and as a result finds itself on the verge of winning at least a share of the O-K Black Conference championship.
The Sailors overcame an early deficit and beat Zeeland East 3-1 on their home court. Mona Shores and Zeeland East are now tied for first place in the league with two matches remaining.
If everything goes well, the Sailors will be able to bring home an O-K Black trophy for the third straight season. The Sailors were outright champions in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s a good Zeeland East team and we felt if we contained its setters we would have a chance,” said Mona Shores Coach Dan Potts, whose team improved to 26-15 overall and 7-1 in the conference.
“As far as the conference goes I like where we’re at, we have two matches left and we’re in a good position.”
The victory provided a measure of revenge for the Sailors, who suffered their only league loss to Zeeland East earlier this month.
Mona Shores won the match 26-24, 17-25, 25-21 and 25-18. But the situation did not look promising for the Sailors in the first set. They fell behind 24-21, and were on the brink of falling behind in the match.
But Madison Dunn responded with a kill for Mona Shores, cutting the deficit to 24-22. Then junior Haley Gartland served four straight service points, including one ace, to give the Sailors a dramatic 26-24 first set victory.
The Sailors lost the second set after grabbing an early lead, but didn’t let that slow them down.
Mona Shores never trailed in the third set, leading by as much as six points at 10-4. The Chix came back to tie the score 18-18, but the Sailors went on a 7-3 run to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Sailors saved their best for the fourth and final set, taking a 10 point lead at 16-6 and cruising to a seven-point win.
Grace Hellman played a huge part in the victory for the Sailors, pounding home 18 kills and adding 10 digs on defense.
Kennedy Potts had a big defensive night with 22 digs while Kaitlin Hermanson chipped in 38 assists.
“Our goal going into this year was to win conference,” Hellman said. “When we lost to Zeeland it really put it in our heads that we had to win together. We can into this game knowing what we had to do and we did it.”
“Tonight it came down to mental toughness and who wanted it more,” said Zeeland East Coach Sara DeWeerdt. “We struggled at times with being the tougher team and our confidence was low, which we cannot afford right now.”
Sophie Riemersma led the Chix with 33 kills, 16 digs and three aces while Morgan VandenBosch had 25 digs.