By Jason Wesseldyk
The 2022 season was one to remember for Allegan.
In their first season in the SAC, the Tigers racked up an overall record of 20-14-1 and finished third in the Lakeshore Division.
But wait, as they say on those late-night infomercials—there’s more: the Allegan also won a tournament for the first time in 12 years.
And according to second-year coach Jake Kaylor, that success has only served to whet the Tigers’ appetite for more success this year.
“These young ladies are hungry for more,” he said. “I look for these girls to go out and give it their best every match. I’m excited to see if we can continue to get better and better.”
The return of some key cogs from last year’s squad should only enhance Allegan’s chances of continued success.
Senior co-captains Hailee Kieviet (libero) and Keyana Szabo (opposite hitter) lead the way after garnering All-Conference honorable mention a year ago.
Other returning starters include senior outside hitters Carlee Rynearson and Katelyn Van Atter; senior defensive specialist Laney Cole; and sophomore setter Addy Fales.
“Our strength this year will most certainly come from our returning starters,” Kaylor said. “Three of these ladies—Carlee, Katelyn and Keyana—are three-time varsity letter winners. And our setter Addy knows what it means to compete at the highest level in Michigan athletics, taking third at the state tennis tournament.”
Newcomers from the JV team who could see ample playing time include sophomore middle blockers Shyonna Thompson and Hanna Kievit along with senior setter Yvette Hernandez and sophomore opposite hitter Mya Corbett.
Mackenzie Rogers, meanwhile, joined the team this summer after not playing last year.
“Mackenzie competed in scrimmages at opposite hitter and we look forward to great things from her,” Kaylor said.
Rebecca Hughes is entering her first season as head coach of Fennville’s varsity team.
That, however, doesn’t mean she’s unfamiliar with the program.
Hughes served as head school at the middle school level at Fennville the past three years, amassing an impressive 24-10 record.
Hughes hopes her familiarity with the players and program will help make the coaching transition a smooth one.
“Many of the girls in this program have played for me at one point,” she said. “Most of them know my coaching style, so adjusting to a new coach this season should not be an issue.”
Hughes inherits a team had has been unable to post a winning record in recent seasons.
“As a first-year varsity coach, I am not setting any lofty goals,” she said. “The program here at Fennville has had a tough few years.
“So, I really want to build some confidence in these girls and help show them what I believe they are capable of. If we can get some wins under our belt while doing it, that’s a plus.”
Five seniors lead the list of returning players for the Blackhawks: opposite hitter Carly Mokma, middle Elia Ruiz-Izquierdo, outside hitter Madisynn Jefferson, defensive specialist Mimi DeLaCruz and middle Kiana Scholten.
Junior libero May-Ling Mendoza-Huynh joins that group as a returning letter winner.
Freshman setter MacKenzie McIlwain will be asked to run the offense for Fennville.
“MacKenzie is one to keep an eye on,” Hughes said. “She is aggressive, distributes the ball well and makes really smart plays.
“I also have high hopes for junior outside Conley Howard, who definitely has the potential to be a powerful pin hitter this year. And I’m expecting junior middle Lila Rosema to be a big presence at the net as well.”
Defense will be a primary focus for the Blackhawks.
“Fennville has typically been an undersized team, which means defense is important for us,” Hughes said. “MacKenzie is a very good defense-first setter. With her setting out of the backrow alongside sophomore Lily Achterhof and Mendoza-Huynh, we have the potential to have a very strong defense.”
When it comes to the SAC standings, Hughes is taking a baby-steps approach.
“I am hopeful we can land above the bottom of the list where we’ve been in previous years,” she said.
There has been a changing of the guard in Hopkins.
After 35 years as head coach of the Vikings, Terrie Wisser retired from that role following the 2022 season.
Alicia Kent takes over for Wisser after coaching in the program for 17 years, including 15 as JV head coach.
“After taking over a 35-year legacy program, I have lots to look forward to,” Kent said. “I want to keep the traditions continuing and start sprinkling in some new ones.”
Kent inherits a senior-laden team that appears poised to win.
The roster includes 10 returning players—including six seniors—from a squad that tied for the OK Silver championship a year ago.
“We have a lot of experience at the varsity level,” Kent said. “We have leadership and determination. We are stacked with talent and will be working on distributing and matching chemistry.”
The six returning seniors are Kate Cleypool (outside hitter), Ellie Sebright (libero), Peyton Roxbury (right-side hitter), Alison Williams (right-side hitter), Lily VandenBosch (defensive specialist) and Lily Icieck (middle blocker).
“The seniors are looking for a repeat of taking the conference title, as well as looking for their first district win in their volleyball careers,” Kent said.
Juniors Lyla Reynolds (middle blocker) and Ava VanderVeen (defensive specialist) also return, as do sophomores Kylee Sykes (setter) and Reid Groenhout (outside hitter).
“We have leadership, talent and some new talent in our back pocket,” Kent said. “I am excited to have these girls for my first year. They all have great personalities and all have great things to contribute to the team and the program.”
Newcomers included juniors Lexy Jankowiak, Rianna Hugmeyer, Cami Hibma and Ava VanderKolk.
“This team is determined and focused on wins and overall success this season,” Kent said. “We have a lot of talent and are working hard to put our offense in full swing.
The 2022 season was a good one for Martin.
The Clippers, who posted an overall record of 28-19-1, claimed a Division 4 district championship and won a regional semifinal before falling to Athens in the regional finals.
With nine players back from that squad, Martin coach Logan Malling is optimistic when it comes to her team’s chances of putting together another successful campaign.
“We are looking forward to yet another winning-record season and hoping to bring home another district title,” Malling said. “With nine returning players—and six players who play club volleyball in the off-season—it should be a fun season.”
Senior Makala Goddard will lead the Clippers offensively from her setter position.
“Makala has so much volleyball knowledge,” Malling said. “She’s a big part of our team chemistry and is a force to look out for.”
Senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Avery Veltman returns after earning All-Conference honors last season, while returning junior middle blocker was All-Conference honorable mention.
Also back are senior middle blocker Elizabeth Reinke, senior right-side hitter Autumn Hayes, senior defensive specialist Hailey Snyder, senior defensive specialist Kyia Bozzo, senior outside hitter Kylie Westendorp and junior right-side hitter Avery Jager.
Junior newcomers Ellyse Blackburn and Macy Thorne—both outside hitters/defensive specialists—round out the roster.
“This season’s team is full of athletes with high levels of volleyball knowledge and skill,” Malling said. “It will be a full season of competition and growth.”
Who says you can’t go home again?
Certainly not Kelsey (Kuipers) Swoboda.
Because last season, Swoboda returned to coach on the same court she once dominated as a player before continuing her career at Michigan State University.
Swoboda’s first season at the helm in Otsego saw the Bulldogs finish in the middle of the Wolverine Conference standings before dropping a heartbreaker to Plainwell in a Division 2 district final.
With some talented retuning players coupled with some promising newcomers, Swoboda hopes for even better results this year.