A Season of Challenge
August 12th, 2020, the Spring Lake High School volleyball program had officially started their tryouts for their 2020 fall season. Monday through Friday, all three high school teams practiced on two seperate outdoor courts, hosted by former varsity coach Mrs. Bulthuis, all the way through August 20th. From there, the freshman, junior varsity, and varsity teams had been completely formed. They had continued their outdoor practices in the midst of the Michigan summertime heat. Without any guarantee for an indoor season, the teams had agreed to continue these practices for the foreseeable future. Finally, on September 2nd, Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave access to all indoor gyms in order for Michigan Athletics to continue their season with restrictions. All athletes were required to wear masks at all times, properly social distance, sanitize regularly, and have their temperature taken before each practice/ game. This however, did not stop the varsity volleyball team from having a good season, ending the season with a 8-18 record.
When asked about what she believes the highlight of their season was, varsity coach Cassidy Hazekamp states, “The highlight of our season was coming back 4 days after losing to Unity Christian in 3 and beating them in a 5 match thriller. The team watched film, responded to the game plan, and executed during the match. I am so proud of how the girls played with grit and determination to come back and beat Unity.” She also mentioned what the team had improved on, stating, “I think we improved most on playing as a team. In the beginning, we played as individuals. The girls developed roles on the team, started playing for each other, and left it all on the court.” As everyone knows, this year is very different from years before, but other than the pandemic, it’s important to take note of what makes her team this year different from the ones year prior. Hazekamp states, “This team is so deep in talent. I have 6 started, but 8 girls I could put in at any time. They are all so talented and love to compete. I love that about this team.” She was also asked what she had learned as a coach, to which she replies, “This year I learned that we truly have to play every game like it's our last. This year was such a whirlwind of emotions due to the pandemic, but our team handled it with such grace. I feel blessed to coach them.”
Towards the last two weeks of the varsity season, an athlete on the team unfortunately got diagnosed with COVID-19. This caused the entire varsity team to have to be sent into quarantine for 10 days. Because of this, they wouldn't be allowed to play in the first round of districts. With thoughts that they had to forfeit, the varsity team had lost all hope. That was until they came into contact with the hosts of the first round of districts, Oakridge high school. After Spring Lake’s attempt at postponing their first round game against Fruitport was unsuccessful, they were prepared for their season to be done. However, the athletic department and volleyball program found a way around it. The oak ridge highschool had told them that they cannot postpone the game, and someone needs to play for them if they wanted a chance at continuing. There was only one solution that they could come up with, and that was to have the Spring Lake JV team play in their place. This request was approved by Oakridge, and Spring Lake was thrilled. The plan was later brought up to the JV team, and although intimidated, they were ready. “At first, I was incredibly anxious. But as I was given time to think about it, I saw the immense privilege that we had been given and I felt honored.” JV sophomore and team Captain, Tessa Fuller, stated. JV Coach Anita Perkins began conducting extra practices for her team, with assistance from freshman Coach Abby Britt and former varsity coach Sarah Bulthuis.
When game time came around, although filled with nerves and anxiety, the JV team was more than ready to take on the fruitport varsity. In the first match, the JV team came out with a strong start but fell short, finishing the first match with a score of 25-20. The second match was a bit tougher for the JV team, but they came back fighting by the third match. Unfortunately, they were unable to pull out a victory against their opponents, but they left the gym with their heads held high. “It’s not easy to play a varsity team, and I think I speak for the rest of the girls when I say that we were so grateful for the JV team. Because of them, we didn’t have to forfeit districts. They worked and fought so hard for us, we’re proud of them no matter the outcome.” Varsity player Emma Nicles, stated.
Although their season didn’t end how they wanted it to, the Spring Lake varsity volleyball team was an incredible group of athletes that represented Spring Lake in an incredible manner. Their 2020 season was nothing short of a challenge, full of obstacles and tasks. However, they came out stronger in the end and powered through all of the difficulties their season had represented them with.