By Noah Genson

FRUITPORT – There are highs and lows for every sports team– even very successful ones, like the Fruitport volleyball squad.

The Trojans have been really good over the past decade, winning state championships in 2010 and 2011 and reaching the state semifinals in 2017.

But a lot of great players have graduated and moved on, and veteran Coach Nicole Bayle has found herself in a rebuilding mode. That was pretty clear on Tuesday night, when the Trojans fell 3-0 to Jenison in O-K Black Conference action.

Fruitport’s Brook Sieplinga goes for a kill at the net. Photo/Jason Goorman

Over the last few years, Fruitport-Jenison matches usually played a big role in determining the conference champion. Now it seems the Trojans have some work to do if they want to remain in contention.

Despite the loss, Bayle found some things to be encouraged about.

“I never like losing, but we really took a step in the right direction tonight,” said Bayle, whose team is 6-11-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play. “I told this group that we have the athletes to be a great team, we just need to put it all together.”

This is one of the more inexperienced squads that Bayle has coached, with just one player returning from the regular rotation last year. 

While some coaches coming off successful runs may have a shorter fuse with younger players, Bayle says staying calm with her girls will only make them better. 

“I could yell and scream all I want on the sideline, but I know that won’t help anything,” she said. “We’re all learning together, and the mistakes we make have become less and less the past couple weeks. I like the way we’re headed.”

The Trojans got off to a slow start in the first set, trailing by six midway through. 

They cut their deficit to two points at 17-15, but then ran out of gas and fell in the first set 25-17. 

Fruitport found its groove early in the second set, jumping out to an early 9-4 lead and triggering a Jenison time out. 

The Wildcats turned it on after that, quickly stealing the lead and the momentum and cruising to a 25-17 victory.

Jenison came out hot in the third set, taking a 13-6 lead. The Trojans battled back and pulled within one point, 19-18. But after another key time out, Jenison scored the next six points to wrap up the set and the match.

“That is a heck of team right there,” said Bayle about the Wildcats. “That is a tough Division 1 opponent, and I really like the way we battled throughout the sets tonight.”

Brooke Sieplinga led the offensive attack for Fruitport with five kills while Madalyn Fett and Sydney Bol each chipped in with four. Jenna VanderVelde served up three aces while Jessie Paquin had 10 assists.

Sieplinga and Ellie Fisher were the anchors up front on defense, tallying three and two blocks apiece for the Trojans. Kennadi Dykstra had 21 digs.