By Noah Genson
And it showed on Saturday, when the Lakers posted an impressive three-set sweep over a very good Whitehall squad in the finals of the Division 2 district finals at Orchard View High School.
Each set was tight – the scores were 30-28, 25-21, 28-26 – but Spring Lake persevered each time and captured all three.
“Our conference season ends earlier than other O-K conferences, so we had a little layoff between the regular season and postseason,” said Spring Lake Coach Cassidy Hazekamp, whose team won its first district title since 2013 “But we used that time wisely. A lot of film watching and a lot of conversations, to keep everybody mentally prepared.”
The first set was a real thriller, with the Lakers overcoming several dangerous deficits.
Whitehall jumped out to an early 9-4 advantage. The Lakers bounced back to even it up at 19-19, before the Vikings went up 23-20.
But six combined kills from Jenna Core and Abbi Perkins helped Spring Lake push the set to extra points, and the Lakers finally pulled out the 30-28 win.
“Jenna and Abbi can have such a huge impact on the game,” Hazekamp said. “They have the ability to change the complexion of a match with just one or two big plays.”
The Lakers led all the way through the second set and went up 2-0.
Spring Lake grabbed a quick 9-4 lead in the third set, before the Vikings fought back to a 10-10 tie midway through the set.
The Lakers led 24-20, and were a point away from clinching the match, but a strong service run from Abby Seeger helped bring the Vikings back and make it 25-25.
A block by Perkins on the last point finally gave Spring Lake a 28-26 victory and the district championship.
“We talked all day at practice yesterday about how this was going to be a battle,” Hazekamp said. “We knew it was going to be back and forth. I didn’t expect a set to go to 30, but I expected it to be a fight.”
Core and Perkins led the Lakers with 14 kills apiece while Madeline Zenas had 38 assists. Alicia Mumby was strong on defense with five blocks.
The Lakers are now set to face O-K Blue Conference rival Grand Rapids West Catholic on Tuesday in a Division 2 regional semifinal, and Hazekamp is ready for another matchup with the Falcons.
“West Catholic is one of our conference opponents, so we’ve already seen them a couple times this year,” she said. “We’ll take a look at the old film on them and some new film, but really we just have to make sure we come ready to play and execute our game plan next week.”
Whitehall coach Ted Edsall said season was a great success for his team, even though the Vikings came up short in the district finals.
“Being able to get the improvement we did from our younger players, and have the success as a whole is incredible,” Edsall said. “Even making it to today and just getting our younger players experience in these situations is a big key to take away.”