By Dave Hart
That’s probably because, despite having much higher goals than winning district trophies, the Bucs don’t take local opponents for granted.
Grand Haven came into Monday’s first round tournament match as the 10-time defending district champion, and took a big step closer to its 11th straight title.
The Bucs cruised past district host Mona Shores in three straight sets to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals.
Grand Haven, which will play Muskegon on Wednesday, won by scores of 25-16, 26-24 and 25-14.
“When you look at the districts and the luck of the draw, and have to play Mona Shores at their place, I am proud of my team and the way they came out and handled themselves tonight,” said Grand Haven Coach Aaron Smaka. “I thought we did a good job controlling the match throughout.
“We have a lot of pride in how we have done in districts and advancing to regionals, but we have a ways to go to do it again.”
Grand Haven, which finished in second place in the O-K Red Conference in the regular season, is now 46-9 on the season.
Morgan Ross paced the Buccaneers with 15 kills and 10 digs while Sophia Newhouse led defensively with 21 digs. Katie Cole chipped in 43 assists and 14 digs while Olivia Boeve contributed 10 kills.
None of the Grand Haven players were getting too excited after the win.
“We are 1-0,” said Ross, a senior. “Everyone starts on a new chapter of the season, and what happened in the past doesn’t matter. We are just moving forward one game at a time.”
“We’ve got to move to the next match, and once that’s over then the next one, point-by-point and set-by-set,” said Boeve, a junior.
The Buccaneers erased an early 2-1 deficit in the first set, going on a 6-0 spurt behind a service run by Claire Holman.
Grand Haven increased its lead to 14-6 after a five-point service run from Newhouse. The Sailors pulled within six points, 17-11, before the Bucs closed out the victory.
The second set was a nail-biter, with the teams combining to tie the score 13 different times.
The Sailors led by three points two different times – 15-12 and 20-17 – but Grand Haven rallied and broke a 24-24 tie with a point from Ross and a hit out of bounds by a Mona Shores player.
Mona Shores jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the start of the third set, but the Buccaneers responded with six straight points to take a 6-2 advantage.
The Sailors cut their deficit to three at one point, then Grand Haven took a 16-12 lead and finished off the set and match with a 9-2 run.
“They are a good team,” said Mona Shores coach Jim VanderWall, whose team finished the season with a 28-19 record and a share of the O-K Black Conference title. “You have to seize every opportunity they give you and the second set was that opportunity.
“We made a lot of errors, but great teams make you make errors.”
Mona Shores was led by Grace Hellman with 10 kills, Haley Gartland had 15 digs and Katie Hermanson chipped in 14 assists.