By Dave Hart
But they’ve accomplished a lot of great things anyway.
First they won the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Tournament title. Then last week they captured a Class B district championship.
On Thursday the Trojans took it a step further, beating Grant in three straight sets to capture a Class B regional championship at Orchard View High School.
The set scores were 25-19, 25-15 and 25-8. It was the team’s first regional championship since 2011.
Now Fruitport advances to Tuesday’s state quarterfinals against Cadillac at Mason County Central High School. The winner will play in the Class B state semifinals three days later.
Suddenly the young Trojans, with just one senior on the roster, are on the verge of making it to the state Final Four.
“It’s kind of like a dream situation, to be honest,” said Fruitport Coach Nicole Bayle, whose team improved to 35-17-4 on the season.
“This junior class has been really strong since they were young, and they are learning now that it’s different to be able to win and succeed at the varsity level.
“They are learning the lessons of putting in the extra effort and making those impact plays to win a game.”
The Trojans were led by Kylie Oberlin with 13 kills while Rachel Paulsen added 10 kills and five digs. Kailey Carmean chipped in with 36 assists, three aces and eight digs and Trinity Busscher led defensively with 16 digs.
The teams played to a 12-12 in the first set, before the Trojans took control with a 13-7 run. Paulsen scored five points up front while Oberlin added four.
Fruitport followed the same script in the second set, breaking a 12-12 deadlock with a 13-3 run that was sparked by a long service run by Carmean.
The Trojans dominated the final set from start to finish, jumping out to a 10-5 lead before closing the match on a 15-3 tear.
“I have learned as a coach to be patient with them until they get to 10 points,” said Bayle about her team’s so-so start in the first two sets. “It takes them a little time to get settled in and to gain confidence to roll.
“Right now, I am focused on tomorrow. The future is exciting to me, but now it’s one step at a time for us, and I need to be the best coach I can be for them to be prepared for Tuesday.”
Grant, which finished its season with an outstanding 43-13-5 record, was led by Taylor Wegener with nine kills, Jill Arends with 13 digs and Nicole Wahn with 26 assists.
“I didn’t feel like we passed the ball well for some reason,” said Grant coach Kristin Keelean. “No pass, no hit, no win.
“The future is still bright for Grant volleyball and this loss makes my team hungry for next season.”