They did it without dropping a set. Game 1 pitted the Bucs against their emerging rival in Kalamazoo Christian, who gave them their biggest challenge of the evening. Despite the test, Grand Haven dismissed the Comets 25-17, 26-24.
After comfortably controlling the first set and jumping out to an early lead in the second, a string of unforced errors and timely Kalamazoo hitting brought the Comets back within one point, 17-16. From there, The Bucs locked back in for three straight points, going up 20-16. Kalamazoo was resilient and charged back for a tie at 23 and forced extra points with a tie at 24 before faltering in crunch time.
“Kalamazoo Christian is a really good team with some really good players,” Grand Haven head coach Jim Vantol said. “This was a big win for us. They have a big hitter on the outside and they have been playing some really good volleyball. We came here tonight excited to play them.”
Game 2 against Allendale was less competitive, with the Bucs’ newfound serving prowess and emerging defensive strength stifling the Falcons offense for a 25-16, 25-13 victory.
“We served 90 percent on the night, which is very good,” Vantol said. “For a young team, we are starting to take serving very seriously, which is great to see. We are just playing much better volleyball. Our serve-receive was a lot better tonight; last time out that hurt us a lot.”
In the final game against host Grand Rapids Christian, the Bucs put it all together for a 25-19, 25-19 win over arguably the most experienced group in the league. The Eagles have been holding organized practices since February.
The Bucs did it with execution and offensive flow as setters and hitters began to find their rhythm for a balanced and relentless attack.
“In that last match, we really settled the ball down and looked to get offense,” Vantol said. “It wasn’t just keep the ball alive and get it back over. It was; let's get a pass and a set and get some kind of offensive swing out of it every single time we get the ball.
“That is what we talked about in between games. Let's make sure we are optimizing our time with the ball. We made some really great defensive plays on difficult balls and still were able to settle down and make a good offensive play. It was as good as we have looked all year.
“Both our setters continue to grow in Tucker Beland and Scott Matthews. They are setting more and more consistent balls and getting them in good hitting position more frequently, which means more kills throughout our network and not just from two guys.”
Offensively, Gavin Yonker led the way with nine aces and tied with Jake Thayer with 12 kills on the night. Mason Fritz followed with nine kills.
“Gavin is going to generate those numbers. He is a good player. All three of those guys are really good. Fritz had a great night, he was really efficient hitting tonight and that’s a lot of kills for a middle hitter who doesn’t play every game.”
With just one more league round robin left in the official season, Grand Haven is in the driver’s seat steering toward winning the inaugural title and is set to host two exhibition tournaments in the coming weeks as more and more schools take interest in the league. West Michigan boys volleyball is up and running, and the Bucs are killing it.