Grand Haven volleyball team cruises past R-P, wins 13th straight district championship

By Andrew Johnson
LocalSportsJournal.com

GRAND HAVEN – The Grand Haven volleyball program has a dynasty going at the district tournament level.

Reilly Swierbut jumps up to serve for Grand Haven. Photo/Mitchel Dixon|MSD Photography

On Thursday the tradition continued when the Buccaneers beat Reeths-Puffer in straight sets in a Division 1 district championship game on their home court. The set scores were 25-12, 25-18 and 25-16.

It was the 13th consecutive district championship for Grand Haven.

“We talk about it a little bit,” said Grand Haven head coach Aaron Smaka. “It’s something that the kids know each person before them has put time and effort into. They know they have to work hard to do this, and that every year top teams go down, so they have to play their best ball at the end of the year.”

After being less than satisfied with how his team played in the first two rounds of districts, Smaka now believes the Bucs may be reaching their potential.

“We haven’t honestly yet been playing our best ball, but I think we’re starting to now,” he said.

In the first set, Grand Haven held a 9-7 lead until eight straight points gave them a 15-7 advantage. The Bucs never looked back, winning 10 of the next 15 points to take a 25-12 win.

In the second set, Reeths-Puffer held strong until the midway point, trailing just 13-11, before Grand Haven won 12 of the final 19 points.

In the third set, Grand Haven held a 5-4 lead, then took firm control  by winning 19 of the next 26 points to take a 24-11 lead.

The Rockets fought all the way to the end, however, winning five straight points before an Ashley Slater kill ended the set and match and clinched the title for Grand Haven.

“It’s really exciting,” said Slater, a senior standout who played her final game on her team’s home court. “It’s really cool to host districts in such a great environment, and to have a big win is such a good way to end my time on this court. Growing up all you hear about is Grand Haven wins another district title, so it means a lot to keep that going.”

Grand Haven Coach Aaron Smaka hands his players the district title trophy. Photo/Mitchel Dixon|MSD Photography

Mackenzie Gross led Grand Haven with 13 kills on the night while Slater added eight and Sarah Knoll had seven.

“Just keeping the legacy going helps us,” said Gross about what the win meant. “Our team motto this year is ‘the hunt,’ which means to keep pushing.”

Samantha Boeve directed the Grand Haven offense with 34 assists while Reilly Swierbut was strong defensively with 12 digs.

Reeths-Puffer, which finished the season with a 21-24 record, was led by Lara Marsic with four kills.

Grand Haven will travel to West Ottawa on Tuesday for the first round of regionals, against Jenison or Hudsonville. Game time is 7 p.m.

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