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Grand Haven cruises into quarterfinals

By: Brian VanOchten, November 13, 2014, 10:00 pm



Zeeland – The last time the Grand Haven volleyball team dropped a set was right before the start of the tournament. It came in a match against OK Conference Red Division champion East Kentwood, which needed five sets to dispatch a team that has remained undefeated through district and regional play.

Grand Haven continued its march through the playoffs on Thursday at Zeeland East High School.

The Buccaneers clinched their second regional title in three years with a straight-sets domination of Hudsonville, 25-21, 25-19, 25-18, and punched their ticket for a trip to the Class A state quarterfinals.

“We’re thrilled,” Grand Haven coach Aaron Smaka said. “It’s good for the community and it’s good for the fans. It’s good for the program. I knew it was going to be a fight, but I also knew we had a lot of weapons.

“These kids were driven to do this.”

Grand Haven, ranked No. 3 in Class A, withstood a lull in the first game.

The Buccaneers (51-8) were up 12-5 when Hudsonville suddenly put together a run in the middle of the game.

The Eagles rallied to take a 20-18 advantage, but Smaka called a timeout and told his players to regroup. The pep talk worked, leading the Bucs to finish off the game with a 7-1 run, setting the tone for the rest of the match.

“One of the things we talked about is we sometimes get in our own way,” Smaka said. “If we can stay out of our way and not make mistakes, we can do something special. We’ve been battle tested. Look at our conference. I don’t know who we play or what’s going to happen, but we’ll be ready (for the next opponent).”

The Bucs remained in control throughout the second and third games.

In the clincher, they had five service aces to help propel them to an early 10-5 advantage. Seniors Autumn Monsma and Amy Kober and juniors Emily Lachmann and Ally Knoll provided the thunder at the net.

“I think we’re really doing that,” sophomore libero Sophia Newhouse said of the Bucs performing at their best in the postseason. “We’re really pulling together at the end of the season. It’s a team effort.”
How far further will the march continue?

“To the end,” Newhouse said without hesitation. “We want to be state champs.”

Hudsonville coach Teresa VanDerSchaaf praised her squad for its Cinderella run during the postseason. The Eagles (36-16-2) finished a distant fourth in the tough OK Red in the regular season.

“This was great for our program,” she said. “I think Grand Haven does an excellent job of executing. Their program has a legacy of success. They competed well tonight and never backed down.

“They have great mental toughness,” she said of the Bucs. “They’re a team that competes well in tough situations.”