By Noah Genson
The Vikings lost to Fruitport last year in the district finals, then again this season in the finals of the city tournament.
But the drawing for the district tournament had already been done by the time the city tournament was played, so the Vikings knew they would get another crack at the Trojans.
And they took full advantage, upsetting powerful Fruitport, a state semifinalist last season, 25-21, 25-20, 25-23 in a Division 2 district opener on Tuesday at Orchard View High School.
“Coming back from that 15-7 deficit in the first set was huge for us,” said veteran Whitehall coach Ted Edsall. “We had to battle back from adversity, and this group of girls believes they can beat every team they face.”
The Vikings, now 31-13-4, will play Orchard View in the semifinals on Thursday, in another rematch.
“Earlier in the season we took care of Orchard View, but they had a couple of players injured,” Edsall said. “We’ve got to be ready to go. I’m just happy to be playing again soon. This team is really rolling.”
The evening did not start out well for Whitehall.
Fruitport jumped out to a commanding 15-7 lead in the first set, but that’s when the Vikings came alive.
Strong service runs by Kate Martin and Charlie Baker, along with four kills by Abby Seeger, gave Whitehall an 18-6 run and a momentum-building comeback win in the first set.
“We moved Seeger to the outside and moved Rayne Thompson back to the middle,” Edsall said. “Since that switch, everybody seems to feel more comfortable with their roles, and it helps that it’s working, too.”
In the second set, the Vikings dominated throughout. Allisyn Grams led the way with five kills, and suddenly Whitehall had a big lead.
Fruitport got hot again to start the third set, jumping out to a 7-1 lead. But Edsall called a time out and the Vikings regrouped. They tied the score 11-11, then pulled to the edge of victory with a 24-18 edge.
The Trojans still had fight in them and clawed back to within one point, 24-23. But Seeger registered a decisive kill on the following point, and Whitehall sealed the upset.
The Vikings were paced by Seeger and Grams with 13 and 10 kills, respectively, while Thompson added eight. Defensively, Gianna Megna had 27 digs and Thompson had five blocks.
Fruitport Head Coach Nicole Bayle took time after the loss to reflect on the impact her current group of seniors have had on the program.
“This is a team that will go down as one of the historic teams in program history,” said Bayle, whose squad finished 32-14 this season. “State semifinals last year, back-to-back city championships, conference championships. And off the court, helping the junior program, mentoring the younger girls on the team.
“This group has done so much for this program, and it means so much to not only it, but to me as well.”
The Trojans were paced by Kylie Oberlin with 13 kills while Jordyn Carlyle added nine. Trinity Busscher led the defense with 18 digs.