COOPERSVILLE – It’s been proven that the vicious competition in the O-K Blue conference has a positive long-term impact on the Fruitport volleyball team.

That was clear last season, when the Trojans finished seventh in the eight-team conference, then used the lessons they learned from their tough league opponents to win a district championship and advance to regionals.

So far this year’s Trojans, a talented but somewhat inexperienced bunch, seem to be following the same pattern.

After getting off to a good start and winning their first set on Tuesday, the Trojans lost a pair of conference matches at Coopersville High School.

They fell to the host Broncos 3-1 in the first match and Grand Rapids West Catholic by the same score in the second match.

Fruitport’s Sadie Haase blasts a shot over the net. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Fruitport is now 7-11 overall on the season and 0-4 in conference play.

“It’s tough, but our girls recognize that they can compete,” said Fruitport Coach Nicole Bayle. “I think they see how we are growing and improving. They understand the big picture.

“Playing against some of these top teams every year makes us better. A loss against West Catholic is better than sweeping some other team in three, because we are building strength, character and a championship mentality. We are okay because we’re used to it.”

The Trojans looked great in the first set against Coopersville, winning 25-15. But then the Broncos stole the match by winning the next three sets, 25-21, 25-15, 25-18.

Against West Catholic, the Trojans dropped the first two sets 25-18 and 25-19, won the third 25-19, then lost the fourth 25-17.

Fruitport’s Lauren Riedel goes low to keep the ball in play. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Sadie Haase led the Fruitport offense with 23 kills on the night while Ashton Olson added 10. Gracelynn Olson had 46 assists and Ellie Stroup served four aces.

Defensively, Lauren Riedel led with 46 digs and Haase had seven blocks.

“We’re close,” Bayle said. “Last week we played tights sets with Unity Christian and Allendale and we did the same tonight.

“You think about kids like Ellie Stroup, Emma Danicek and Izabel Hanson-Wilbur, they are kids that play all the time and are brand new to varsity this year. Their rate of growth has been crazy, and I know that in a couple weeks, if we keep working hard, we are going to close that gap.”   

eddie alexander