The 2019 Vicksburg Winter Sports Teams are pictured below.
By Sue Moore
Spring Arbor University softball and recruiting coaches were present when Vicksburg High senior Abbey Lafler signed a letter of intent to play for the university in 2020.
The four-year athletic and academic scholarship was offered by Coach Deb Thompson, who observed Lafler’s pitching at a fall recruitment clinic.
Thompson, recruiting coach Terry Reynolds and Asst. Softball Coach Joe Robertson all attended the signing ceremony. Spring Arbor is an NAIA Division II team, playing in the Crossroads League.
Lafler, a senior and Vicksburg’s centerfielder, can also play shortstop should the need arise.
After the recruitment clinic, Lafler was asked to come back for a second look. “I made a diving catch in the outfield, showed my hitting strength and they made me an offer right then,” she said.
“I loved the atmosphere at Spring Arbor. I felt the coaches were kind and welcoming. They have a close team and it just felt like family,” Lafler explained.
She carries a 4.026 GPA in high school while participating in the National Honor Society, the student senate and DECA. She was captain of the JV team for three years, with a .490 batting average in 2018. She plans to major in psychology or business at Spring Arbor. Her parents are Melissa and Rick Lafler, Jr. She has lived in Fulton all of her life.
By Mark Blentlinger
Mother Nature decided to add a twist to the regional championship game between Schoolcraft and Montague high schools, dumping 5-6 inches of snow on Roy Davis field overnight. Starting around 6 a.m. the Schoolcraft field crew, along with dozens of volunteers helped to clear the field.
By game time, the field was clear of snow and ice, but not mud. There was plenty of that waiting for the players of both teams. The Eagles, wore their purple and gold uniforms, Montague wore all white, but neither for long. Unfortunately, the mud made it hard for the Eagles to get any footing on their first opportunity on offense, giving them a 4th down and the need to punt.
Montague running back Bryce Stark would take the 3rd play of the Wildcats’ first offensive series 34 yards to the Eagle end zone. The kick from David Rumsey was good with 7:23 left in the first quarter. The ensuing kick, unfortunately, was fumbled by the Eagles on their own 27-yard line and recovered by the Wildcats. It resulted in a field goal, taking the score up to 10-0. The Eagles were never really able to get anything together early in the game. The Wildcats were able to add another score, taking the lead 16-0 into halftime.
The 3rd quarter began with a Wildcats possession. They worked their way down the field, ending up once again with a touchdown. The extra point was good, and the score was 23-0. The Eagles were able to put some good plays together, but the defense of Montague held. Another score by the Wildcats would widen the score to 30-0. The fight was not yet out of the Eagles. Sitting at a 4th and 8, Alex Thole, threw a pass to fellow Eagle Parker Lawrence, that went 41 yards for the Eagles’ first score of the game. The attempt for a 2 point conversion failed. The Eagles knew time was running short and were not going to give up so easily. Another long pass from Alex Thole, this time to Kobe Clark, took the ball 54 yards to pay dirt. Clark then took the 2-point conversion into the end zone, to make the final score 30-14. The Montague Wildcats took the Regional Championship and the chance to play on.
Coach Nathan Ferency told his team how proud of them he was and thanked the seniors for their hard work and the leadership they had offered. He said, “It has been an honor” and told them what fun it was to take over such a program like Schoolcraft and have had such a successful first season. He told the underclassmen, “The off-season starts tomorrow. It’s time to work hard and prepare for next season.”
By Mark Blentlinger
A regional volleyball championship was on the line: Bronson, ranked #2 in Division 3, with Schoolcraft ranked #3. Bronson was also the 3-time defending state champion.
Set 1 was back and forth. The Eagles were up 9-2, when Bronson started putting things together. Both teams were playing very aggressively. The Eagles were up 23-16 when Bronson started to make a comeback, but the Eagles were able to secure the first set with a kill from Andelyn Simkins, finishing at 25-22.
The Vikings started out set two very strong, taking an early 7-3 lead. The Eagles did all they could to bring the score closer, but they fell back by 6. The Vikings were able to capitalize with some good defense and won the set 25-15. Set 3 was tough. The Eagles, down by 10 at one point in the set, started a run and brought the score to 18-20. Bronson still led and eventually took Set 3, 25-19.
The crowd witnessed two very good volleyball teams battle. It was clear why they were ranked second and third in the state. Set 4 started with the Eagles jumping out to a small lead. They were able to maintain the momentum and got a 14-8 lead.
Both teams showed some phenomenal defense, with very acrobatic saves. Both teams’ fans were cheering so loudly it was difficult to hear. The Eagles hit their stride and gained a 23-17 lead. Bronson started making a charge of its own, bringing the score to 24-21. After a questionable call that seemed to take forever to get straightened out, the Eagles were able to hold off the Vikings for a score of 25-23.
With each team taking 2 sets, the Regional Championship would be decided by a 5th set tie breaker. Bronson’s offensive attack was too strong for the Eagles and the Vikings won Set 5…and the Regional Championship.
The Eagles stat leaders for the night: Kills – Andelyn Simkins with 30, Maggie Morris with 12 and Alisa Eartman with 7. Digs – Andelyn Simkins with 29, Kelby Goldschmeding with 27, Kayla Onken with 17 and Abby Pincumbe with 13. The leader for assists was Kayla Onken, with 50.
Coach Onken said “I’m proud of the way we fought. Whether we were leading or down, we battled, and the girls should be proud of their effort and all the success they’ve had this season. They stayed positive and played with confidence and had fun.”
The Eagles finished out the 2018 season with a record of 44 wins, eight losses and two ties.
By Reuben Dourte
Schoolcraft graduate Jayci Suseland plays college volleyball for Millersville University in Millersville, Pa. She recently transferred from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Allendale, to play Division II volleyball as a right side hitter for the Marauders.
Suseland played high school volleyball under the direction of Coach Erin Onken at Schoolcraft High School. During her junior and senior seasons at Schoolcraft, she was a stand-out two-time All State, All Conference and All Region selection. During her years in high school, the Eagles made playoff runs in 2014 and 2015, including an appearance in the state championship game in 2014 when Jayci played alongside her older sister, Shelby, who just completed 4 years of volleyball at Kalamazoo College under coach Jeanne Hess.
Jayci, considering a pre-vet study, declared a biology major this summer at the start of play in the competitive 16-team, NCAA Division II, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). Playing in the PSAC, Suseland experienced her best year of collegiate volleyball, amassing 385 kills on the season and leading the entire conference in kills per set while maintaining a .330 hitting percentage through the regular season (2nd in the conference through the regular season), and sustaining those numbers while swinging over 200 more attempts than any player in the top 9 placings in the conference.
She overcame significant obstacles – moving 600 miles, playing in and learning a new team system, and overcoming a significant injury, to go on and represent her hometown very well outside of the region and reach personal and team goals during an impressive season. She is the daughter of John and Debra Suseland of Schoolcraft.
On November 8th, the results of the PSAC coaches’ All-Conference voting were released and Jayci was named 1st Team All-Conference by the league’s head coaches. She is the first Millersville 1st Team selection since 2006.
By Sue Moore
Joey McCowen, the Vicksburg baseball team’s starting pitcher in 2019, will play for Spring Arbor University in 2020. He signed a letter of intent to play for the NAIA team when Coach Ryan Marken came to Vicksburg.
“We saw him play last summer for the West Michigan Broncos and liked his selection of pitches,” Marken said. “He throws fast, has a good curve ball, slider and change up. Plus, we could see that he was very competitive on the mound. The team is going to build around the pitchers we are recruiting, so Joey is an integral part of our plan.”
The Spring Arbor Cougars have had plenty of success in the past; Coach Marken in 2007 played shortstop on a team that was runner-up for a national championship. “I went into coaching to help young men develop as a person and graduate. I liked McCowen because he was so competitive and willing to learn,” Marken said.
McCowen started on the Bulldog football team the last two years at wide receiver and cornerback. “I thought my future was in baseball and now plan to concentrate on my pitching with travel ball and then with my teammates at Ed Knapp field this spring,” McCowen said. He has a 3.2 GPA and expects to major in finance and accounting at Spring Arbor.
By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg varsity volleyball team got off to a hot start this season, winning its first seven games. But the season ended sooner than they hoped.
After the girls lost their first Wolverine Conference match to Edwardsburg in mid-October, things seemed to go downhill for the season. The team still had high hopes going into the first Division matchup on November 1. Unfortunately, the team ended up having to face an extremely good Eddies team again for that first game.
It seemed every time the Lady Bulldogs started to get some momentum going, the Eddies took it away. The team ultimately fell to Edwardsburg in three straight sets by scores of 25-13, 25-11 and 25-12.
This year’s squad will lose only two graduating seniors in Kaytee Harvey and Grace Wile, meaning most of the girls will get a chance at redemption.