FRUITPORT – Senior Night is always a reminder that one group is getting ready to move on and the younger players will soon lead the way.

The Fruitport volleyball team honored its three soon-to-be-departing seniors before Thursday’s match against Hudsonville Unity Christian, but some thoughts were also on the future.

The Trojans have three juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen on the roster, and Fruitport Coach Nicole Bayle is hoping that group will eventually benefit from the bumps and bruises the team has been experiencing in O-K Blue conference play in recent weeks.

Fruitport fell to 10-18 overall and 1-9 in the conference following its 3-0 loss to Unity Christian, but Bayle can see a day when all the current disappointment will pay dividends.

Fruitport’s Sadie Haase (15) gets ready to pound a shot past two blockers. Photo/Jeremy Clark 

“This is absolutely going to help us a ton,” the coach said. “This is the level we have to play to compete in championship matches, so it’s going to help us as the years go on. We’ll be ready when they’re grown and developed.”

The set scores were 25-16, 25-17, 25-17, and Bayle was not completely disappointed with her team’s performance, particularly compared to a less impressive showing on Tuesday, when the Trojans fell to Allendale in three sets, including one where they only scored nine points,

“We’ll call it the midseason blues,” said Bayle about the Tuesday performance compared to Thursday. “I told our girls that Unity was a good team. They’ve got some big hitters and we’ve got really one attacker. But I was happy to see our kids fight and they didn’t give up.”

In the first set on Thursday, the Trojans fell behind 8-2, then traded points with their visitors until they lost 25-16.

Fruitport’s Ashton Olson (9) returns a shot. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Fruitport had a much stronger start in the second set, jumping out to a 6-5 lead before Unity Christian responded with a 16-6 run, ultimately cursing to a comfortable 25-17 victory.

In the third and final set, Fruitport held a 7-6 lead before a 17-8 run helped Unity Christian sew things up by a 25-17 score.

Sadie Haase led Fruitport offensively with seven kills while Lauren Riedel paced the defense with 10 digs.

Gracelynn Olson totaled 15 assists.

Despite the loss, one Fruitport senior said it was a great night to look back and celebrate some great varsity seasons.

Fruitport’s Lauren Riedel keeps the ball in play. Photo/Jeremy Clark

“It’s so special,” said Ashton Olson, who along with Riedel and Emma Hueller form the Trojans’ senior class. “It feels amazing, and our group is so close with each other. It’s been really good playing on this floor. I hope that everyone stays upbeat and keeps cheering for each other.”

While the Trojans still have a lot of season left, including some home matches, Bayle reflected on Senior Night and what her three senior players and senior team manager have brought to the program.

“They’re awesome kids,” the coach said. “They’re a special group that is very selfless and hard working. They bring leadership, focus, intensity, and we will miss them a ton next year. It’s not just their athleticism, they’ve made an imprint on their teammates’ and coaches’ hearts.”eddie