FRUITPORT – Fruitport’s Sadie Haase is primarily known as a powerful front-row player who pounds the ball for points and frustrates opponents with blocks.

But she was recently handed a bigger assignment by her coaches. She now stays on the court when she rotates to the back, so she can apply her skills defensively, as well.

The experiment has worked well so far, including on Tuesday night, when Haase had another strong game, leading Fruitport’s offense with 13 kills and playing a big role on defense with 15 digs.

Unfortunately for the Trojans, her efforts weren’t quite enough in a hard-fought four-set loss to rival Spring Lake in O-K Blue conference action.

Fruitport’s Sadie Haase tries to get the ball past Spring Lake blockers at the net. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Fruitport battled to win the first set 27-25, but lost the last three, 24-14, 25-23, 25-21.

The Trojans are now 13-22 overall on the season, and 1-11 against elite competition in the O-K Blue.

Fruitport Coach Nicole Bayle saw some positives in the loss, but said opponents are still scoring too many points in a row.

“We played well tonight,” she said. “We talked a little bit about the tight parts of the games – it’s the in-between big runs that we’re giving up, and we’ve got to just eliminate those so there’s not so much pressure at the end of the game.

Fruitport’s Gracelynn Olson (11) makes a great save. Photo/Jeremy Clark

“Spring Lake did a good job taking care of the ball when they needed to and making sure they scored points when Sadie was in the back row.”

Bayle said one of the big positives from Tuesday and other recent matches has been Haase’s ability to contribute in the back row, where the focus is more on preventing points than scoring them.

“Usually middle hitters don’t play back row,” the coach said. “We just made the decision in the last two weeks that her upside on the court is very positive and she’s going to be a six-rotation player for us. She does an excellent job of shuffling, moving and communicating. She’s provided some positive leadership for us.”

Haase, a junior who really started to display her talent as a sophomore on varsity last season, has embraced that leadership role.

Fruitport’s Lauren Reidel sets up a shot for a teammate. Photo/Jeremy Clark

“Give positive feedback and critique in a good way,” Haase said, when asked what her leadership efforts involve. “Since I’ve been on varsity a little longer and have more experience, I can see the little holes that are on the other side.

“I love it. I’m just thankful, and I hope my team knows I am, too.”

Despite having a tough season so far, the Trojans have kept their morale high with good team chemistry, according to Haase. But team isn’t really the best word for it – it’s more like a family, she said.

“Coach can’t get us to shut up in practice,” Haase said. “We’re a big family. Hopefully, it shows on the court because that’s how we feel.”

Fruitport’s Ellie Stroup tries to avoid Spring Lake blockers. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Bayle agrees.

“We’ve been working really hard at that because it’s hard when you don’t win a ton of games,” the coach said. “It’s the biggest thing that’s going to help us continue to get better,”

Gracelynn Olson contributed to the Trojan offense with eight kills while Ashton Olson and Izzy Hansen-Wilbur both had seven. Gracelynn Olson also had 30 assists while Lauren Reidel served up three aces.

Defensively, Kendal Kolberg had 18 digs and Gracelynn Olson added 17.

Fruitport will face Grand Rapids West Catholic in another conference match on Thursday on the road.  eddie