FRUITPORT – Gracelynn Olson knows that losing is just a temporary phase for the Fruitport volleyball team.
She has seen and experienced too much success to believe anything else.
Olson literally grew up around the Trojan volleyball team, because her mother, Debbie Olson, is a longtime coach in the program.
She remembers watching the 2010 and 2011 Trojans win Class B state championships, and dreaming of the day when she could play on the big team.
“I was sitting on the team bench since I was three years old,” Olson said. “I remember watching the state championship teams. I remember dancing with them. That’s a tradition at Fruitport – we always dance before games.
“I always dreamed about playing for Coach Bayle, and about playing varsity as a freshman.”
That dream came true last year when Olson reached the ninth grade. She not only made the varsity roster, but became the starting setter, the most challenging position on the court.
The Trojans struggled in the tough O-K Blue conference in the regular season last year, then suddenly found their game and stunned everyone by winning a Division 2 district title.
That old championship feeling resurfaced again, and Olson was on the team to enjoy it.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Olson said about last year’s district run. “We struggled in conference last season, then just took off in districts. We played so well and had so much perseverance. We didn’t let anyone stop us or tell us we couldn’t do it.”
The current season is playing out in a similar way. Fruitport has again had a hard time in the brutal O-K Blue, but has started to play much better in recent weeks.
Now districts have arrived again, and Olson can picture a similar scenario, with the Trojans applying the hard lessons they learned and having another great postseason run.
Fruitport will meet Spring Lake at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Division 2 district semifinals at Allendale High School. The winner will advance to Thursday’s championship match against Hudsonville Unity Christian or Allendale.
“I definitely think we could push for another district title,” Olson said. “We played (Spring Lake) very well before. As long as we keep pushing and being strong and knowing we can do it, we should be able to win.
“We’ve had our puts and downs, but now we’re playing more as a team. We are better with connections and have more confidence. Things are starting to really click well right now.”
Olson knows the future is also very bright, with three juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen on the team, learning and growing every match.
She fully expects her junior and senior seasons to be filled with more victories and fun.
“We have freshmen and sophomores with a lot of potential,” Olson said. “As we keep getting older we keep getting better and better.”
Whenever the trophies start to come again, it’s pretty sure bet that Olson will play a big role.
She has already become a standout setter in her second year of varsity, and never leaves the court.
The setter is basically the quarterback or point guard who is responsible for setting up scoring plays. Olson has been a huge success in that area, with 709 assists this season heading into districts.
She’s also fourth on the team with kills (112) and service aces (32). Defensively, she is second on the team in digs (267). That means when she isn’t setting up offensive plays, or scoring herself, she is flying around the court and diving to keep the ball in play.
“She has a really high volleyball IQ and understands the game,” Coach Bayle said. “The way she understands and sees the court positively impacts our team. Her confidence and knowledge help us be more relaxed, focused and organized.”
Olson credits Bayle for helping her develop her game so quickly.
She also credits her mother, who moved up to be an assistant coach with the varsity this season after years of coaching at lower levels. While parent-child relationships are sometimes strained when they become coach-player relationships, Olson said it’s been going great.