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Prep Volleyball Playoff Preview

Tribune Staff • Oct 29, 2018 at 12:15 AM

Back in August, it looked like the West Michigan area would be filled with state championship-caliber volleyball teams when November rolled around.

Some local teams have battled through inconsistency, injuries and a difficult conference schedule to simply survive the regular season, but the talent, experience and expectations remain the same.

Programs like Grand Haven and Fruitport have enjoyed plenty of postseason success in the past decade, while teams like Spring Lake and Western Michigan Christian have put together strong seasons with senior leadership and dynamic playmakers that make them contenders for long playoff runs this season.

Here's a look at some of the local district draws and what we expect will happen by the end of the week.

DISTRICT 9 AT REETHS-PUFFER

MONDAY: Grand Haven vs. Grand Rapids Union (6 p.m. at Grand Haven), Reeths-Puffer vs. Muskegon (6 p.m.)

WEDNESDAY: Grand Haven-Union winner vs. Kenowa Hills (6 p.m.), Puffer-Muskegon winner vs. Mona Shores (7:30 p.m.)

THURSDAY: Semifinal winner vs. Semifinal winner (7 p.m.)

OUTLOOK: The Grand Haven volleyball program has won 11 straight district championships at the local level, and despite a topsy-turvy regular season, the Buccaneers should have enough talent in their lineup to make it a dozen.

The Buccaneers finished the regular season 31-13-2, closing out a tumultuous conference schedule with back-to-back wins over Grandville and East Kentwood to give the team some positive momentum heading into the postseason.

Other than Grand Haven, the rest of the district field is comprised of O-K Black Conference teams. Mona Shores (17-26-3) and Reeths-Puffer (13-28) finished third and fourth in their league standings, while Kenowa Hills, Muskegon and Grand Rapids Union finished in the bottom half of the standings.

Last year, Grand Haven found its rhythm late in the year to make a run to the regionals. Don't be surprised if that's the case again this season.

PREDICTION: Grand Haven over Mona Shores

 

DISTRICT 41 AT ORCHARD VIEW

TUESDAY: Oakridge vs. Montague (5:30 p.m.), Fruitport vs. Whitehall (7 p.m.)

THURSDAY: Fruitport-Whitehall winner vs. Orchard View (5:30 p.m.), Oakridge-Montague winner vs. Spring Lake (7 p.m.)

SATURDAY: Semifinal winner vs. Semifinal winner (10 a.m.)

OUTLOOK: With three teams ranked in the latest Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll, this district tournament is poised for some entertaining matches and some highly competitive play.

It'd be difficult to find a better opening round matchup than Fruitport against Whitehall on Tuesday, as the Trojans are coming off a state semifinal appearance last year and the Vikings have already scored a win over Fruitport (25-13, 25-16) on Sept. 27.

The Trojans received a huge boost to their lineup recently, when senior setter Kailey Carmean returned from a knee injury to give the team some more stability and versatility. Seniors Kylie Oberlin, Jordyn Carlyle, Trinity Busscher and Rachel Paulsen are also integral members of the starting lineup for the Trojans.

Spring Lake hopes to play spoiler in the district tournament, as the Lakers had a strong regular season with two wins over Fruitport with both matches going three sets in a tournament format. The Lakers are led by seniors Jenna Core and Madeline Zenas. Core leads the team in kills and digs, while Zenas routinely leads the squad in assists, blocks and aces. Abbi Perkins, Jencen Sabo and Julia Clover are also key players to watch for Spring Lake.

The winner of the Fruitport-Whitehall matchup will be a heavy favorite to make the district finals, while Spring Lake appears to be a favorite to reach Saturday's championship game, as well. Regardless of who comes out on top, the team that comes out of this district should have enough momentum to make a run through regionals.

PREDICTION: Fruitport over Spring Lake

 

DISTRICT 74 AT SAUGATUCK

MONDAY: Fennville vs. North Muskegon (6 p.m. at Fennville)

WEDNESDAY: Saugatuck vs. Holland Black River (5 p.m.), Western Michigan Christian vs. Fennville-North Muskegon winner (7 p.m.)

THURSDAY: Semifinal winner vs. Semifinal winner (6 p.m.)

OUTLOOK: With two ranked teams in the field, this district tournament will likely have some intriguing semifinal matchups. Western Michigan Christian (honorable mention) and North Muskegon (No. 7) are on a collision course for Wednesday's semifinals, with the winner being a heavy favorite to win the district title.

The Warriors are coming off a stellar regular season, winning the Lakes Eight Conference and finishing with a 33-13-1 record. Anna Sytsema leads the team in kills and blocks, while Chloe Mitchell leads the team in assists and Megan Heiss lead the team in digs. Taylor Folkema, Rebecca TerHaar and Claudia Kingma are also names to watch for the Warriors.

North Muskegon closed out their regular season with a 35-15-1 record and a share of the Western Michigan Conference title with Whitehall. The Norse are led by outside hitter Syann Fairfield and setter Emma Houseman. Mackenzie Firs and Kasey Firestone are also key contributors, along with Kendal Hoppa.

PREDICTION: Western Michigan Christian over Holland Black River

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