By Dave Hart
RAVENNA – Last year the Ravenna volleyball team blasted through districts and regionals before finally bowing out in the Class C state quarterfinals.
This year’s Bulldog squad is a lot younger and less experienced, so another long tournament run may be a stretch.
But keeping the district trophy at home is definitely an attainable goal, and the Bulldogs took a big step in that direction on Monday.
They battled for five tough sets and pulled out a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over North Muskegon in the opening round of Class C districts on their home court.
Ravenna now advances to play Western Michigan Christian in Wednesday’s semifinal round. Kent City and Muskegon Heights will play in the other semifinal.
Ravenna won the match with set scores of 22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 16-25 and 15-6.
“We just didn’t come out with the fire like we were hoping to,” said Ravenna Coach Kim Platt. “But I think the crowd got us pumped up at the end and helped us pull through and play like we should have had.”
“We were all pretty nervous at first,” said Ravenna sophomore Amber Jacobs, who had 14 kills, three blocks and two service aces. “But it is really exciting to get to play Wednesday against WMC.”
The Norse won the first set, rallying from an 11-5 deficit and getting the victory despite committing eight infractions.
Ravenna jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead during the second set before falling behind 13-11 halfway through the set.
But the Bulldogs pulled together at that dangerous moment, closing the set with a 14-8 run to even the match at one set apiece.
Ravenna fell behind 14-10 in the third set before going on a 15-6 run to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
But the Norse were not ready to quit. Ravenna led the fourth set 13-11, but North Muskegon stole with an impressive 14-3 run, due in part to nine straight service points by junior Kayla Mulder.
The Norse obviously had the momentum following the fourth set, but Ravenna calmed down, regrouped and dominated the fifth and final set.
The Bulldogs fell behind 5-3, then went on a 12-1 run to seal the victory and the match.
Bulldog senior Sydney Hanson fueled the strong finish with multiple kills. She ended the night with 10.
The Bulldogs’ defense was a huge part of the victory compiling for a total of 115 digs. Sydney Hanson led Ravenna with 32, while Ryen Huyser and Hayley Dekker added 22.
Sabrina Bawcum had four blocks for Ravenna.
North Muskegon finished the season with a 14-28 record.
“We definitely showed up to play tonight,” said North Muskegon Coach Chelsea Cooke-Tripp. “We had a slow first couple of points but the girls fought every game and did not quit.”
Cooke-Tripp credited Kasey Firestone, Molly Huisingh, Marion Eacker and Mary Hoopes for their strong play on Monday.