Eagles Volleyball Team Sweeps Quad Match

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Andelyn Simkins powers the ball over the net in a recent quad match. Kayla Onken, number 10, looks on along with Alisa Ertman in the lower right. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

The Eagle Volleyball team was in action Sept. 18 at Schoolcraft High School for a quad match and home opener. The Eagles hosted Hackett Catholic Prep, Coloma and Martin. They started their opener with Hackett. The Eagles beat the Irish in three straight sets, 25-10, 25-8, and 25-11.

Court 2 had Coloma and Martin in action, going into a fifth set tiebreaker. Coloma took set one, 26-15. Martin came back, taking the next two sets 25-21 and 25-18. Coloma, however, won the fourth set 27-25 to force the tiebreaker. The fifth set belonged to Martin, 14-9, for the win.

It had been predetermined which teams would be playing one another for the night. The Eagles of Schoolcraft next faced off against the Comets of Coloma, while the Irish of Hackett played the Clippers of Martin. The long wait between matches didn’t have an effect on the Eagles. They played like they did in the first match – wherever the ball was, an Eagle was there. You did not want to be on the receiving end of Morris, Simkins or Feddema when their kill shots went into action!

The Eagles didn’t let up on the Comets at all, taking best out of three in just two sets, 25-8 and 25-10.

Maggie Morris and Andeelyn Simkins tied with 16 kills each, while Kelsey Feddema had 10. Kenzie Chrissman led the Eagles on digs with 33, Andelyn Simkins had 20 and Kayla Onken came in with 13. Aces were led by Simkins with 11 and Onken had eight.

Coach Onken said the girls played with enthusiasm. They controlled the first contact extremely well, allowing them to run their quick offense quite efficiently. Onken said all the players on the roster helped contribute to the two conference wins.

The team is at 17-3-1 this season.

Bulldog Soccer Building from Ground Up

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity boys’ soccer team is going through some growing pains again. But this year’s team has more youth than ever before.

There are just two seniors in Joe Brady and Jay Snyder. The rest of the team is made up mostly of sophomore and freshman players.

“I’m preparing this team for the next two or three years,” Head Coach Lahou Boulnemour said after a 4-0 loss to Delton Kellogg. After the game, Boulnemour encouraged his players to put extra work in on their ball-handling skills. The Bulldogs let a few too many passes get away from them once they got the ball into scoring contention. Another concern is getting the young squad to better work on their conditioning. Some of the boys simply ran out of gas in the hot conditions later in the game.

“If you’re not conditioned in the first half of the year, you’re done, you’re going to get beat,” Boulnemour said.

The rough start to the season aside, there have been flashes of what could be with this team. Their second match of the year they beat Parchment 5-3. “This team is much more disciplined than last year,” Boulnemour said.

In fact, he has very high hopes for the future if he can get everyone on the same page. “In the next two or three years I think this team will be unbeatable.”

Bulldog Football Record Drops to 2-4

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Jacob Conklin, Vicksburg’s quarterback, tries to run out of the grasp of the opposing tackler. Grant Deal, number 65, is at left.

By Travis Smola

A dull first half led to a wild finish that saw Vicksburg’s varsity football team drop its third game of the season in a heartbreaking 22-21 loss to Otsego Sept. 21.

The first two quarters were a defensive. It was 3-0 Otsego at halftime. Things picked up considerably when on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, senior running back Caleb Welch found some space down the right side. He picked up an additional blocker and rumbled 73 yards for a touchdown. Fellow senior Joe Brady tacked on the extra point and it was 7-3 Vicksburg.

Welch had another huge game for the Bulldogs, racking up 207 yards on just 17 attempts. He also scored two touchdowns.

Vicksburg was able to take the lead again after senior receiver Aaron Phelps returned the subsequent kickoff 65 yards. It set up a 25-yard touchdown run by Welch on the next play to make the score 14-10.

“We ended up getting the momentum in the second half offensively,” Head Coach Tom Marchese said. “They did a good job of keeping the ball. We didn’t have many possessions in the first half.”

Vicksburg increased the lead on the next drive with a one-yard scramble by sophomore quarterback Jacob Conklin to make things 21-10. “Up two scores we just needed to get a stop and we couldn’t,” Marchese said.

Otsego made it 21-16 with 2:07 left in the game. Otsego’s two-point attempt failed and they were forced to go for an on-side kick attempt which they recovered.

Otsego then marched back down the field and Otsego quarterback Will Eldred hit Callaway again for the winning score. Vicksburg got a good kick return and Conklin made a good pass deep to put the Bulldogs in position for a long field goal as time expired. But Brady’s attempt fell short.

The next week at Paw Paw, the Bulldogs erased a 21-0 halftime deficit. Welch opened the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown rumble. Vicksburg got within seven after Shane Earl reached into a pile, stole away the ball, and then scampered 64 yards to the end zone for the score.

The Bulldogs tied things up on their next possession with a 10-yard keeper by Conklin. Vicksburg got the ball back with about five minutes left and set up Brady for a 39-yard game winning attempt. Unfortunately the kick fell short as time expired. The Redskins scored a touchdown and converted two points on their OT possession. The Bulldogs failed to get in the end zone and ran out of downs. The final was 29-21.

The two losses come after a decisive 41-7 victory over Sturgis. Conklin rushed for 177 yards on 16 attempts while converting three touchdowns in that contest. But Marchese said they still need to do better. “I know this is week five, but we’ve only had five guys who played on this field on a Friday night,” Marchese said. “We’re still really young but our guys are playing, they’re giving their best.”

Cross Country Sets New Records Despite the Weather

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The Vicksburg Boys cross country team runs out in front of the competition. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

Vicksburg’s cross country teams have once again been dealing with the unpredictable Michigan weather as their season nears the midway point.

“It’s been hot,” Head Coach Lucas Wolthuis said as the team went one on one with Edwardsburg at home.

At the Cougar Falcon invite in Lansing, the boys finished 23rd and saw a lot of records fall. Junior Jacob Malocha was the top runner for the boys, setting a new personal record of 18:36.1. Sophomore Joey Loriso also set a new personal record. Sophomore Levi Thomas, junior Keagan Ellsworth, junior Jackson Hambright and senior Hunter Bierema all set season records.

With the loss of some key seniors, the boys’ team has some growing to do this year. “We know that it’s about how you run at the end of the season and not at the beginning of the season,” Wolthuis said. “And the goal is to grow and improve.”

The girls finished 30th at the same mee, but saw even more new personal records set. The top finisher was sophomore Sawyer Barton who set a new personal record (PR) while running 20:17.6. Other Lady Bulldogs who set new personal records include sophomore Hannah Fenwick and senior Mia Mulhearn.

Of the two teams, Wolthuis believes the girls will have a stronger showing this year in the long run and could compete for a top three spot. The challenge will come facing teams like Plainwell and Otsego who are once again fielding extremely strong teams.

But the girls have defeated Allegan and Edwardsburg this year in dual meets and have shown up strong in larger races consistently. Against Edwardsburg, sophomore Avalee Goodman, freshman Katie Schaible, junior Sam Richardson and freshman Jessica Ferguson all set new PRs.

“Our girls’ team has some girls that should be competing for top conference spots, maybe even regionals spots,” Wolthuis said.

Bulldog Volleyball Picks Up Where They Left Off

By Travis Smola

The Lady Bulldogs only lost two seniors last year and have seemingly picked things up exactly where they left off. In fact, they’re doing even better than last year. The team is 19-4-5 and 5-0 in conference.

“It’s the best record I’ve ever had here,” Head Coach Katrina Miller said after the girls finished off Otsego in a scrappy battle of the Bulldogs in three sets. The match was made a little more difficult due to the hot conditions in the gym. “The heat is miserable. It makes it a lot harder to stay excited and pumped up and that takes so much energy,” Miller said.

The girls beat Otsego pretty easily in the first set 25-16. The next two sets were a little more challenging, but they still managed to come out on top, 25-18 and 25-21. Again this year, Vicksburg is using a very scrappy style of play to wear down almost any opponent they come up against. “Otsego, they always give us a fight,” Miller said. “They have a great coaching staff there so whenever we can beat them, that is good.”

Miller also praised her two seniors for their extraordinary efforts this season. Kaytee Harvey has been a force all year at middle blocker. She always seems to be using her height to knock down opponent’s shots at the net and led the team with 14 kills in the victory over Otsego. “She hasn’t hit under .400 all year,” Miller said. “That’s counting tournaments as well, so that’s big.”

Fellow senior Grace Wile took over as libero this year and has also been a force to reckon with, seemingly always in the thick of things. Wile led the team with 19 digs against Otsego. “She’s had two shoulder surgeries in the last year and messed up her other shoulder at the beginning of this year – and she gets balls up that I don’t even know how she gets to them,” Miller said.

Bulldog Tennis Wins Caledonia Invitational

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Corbin Wallace returns a volley playing second singles for Vicksburg. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

“Caledonia was unbelievable.” That was the only way Vicksburg varsity boys’ tennis coach Warner Offord could describe how his team played at the Caledonia Invitational tournament at the end of August.

The boys ended up taking first in the tournament that saw a Bulldogs sweep in singles action. Junior Ayden Flickinger won first singles, and seniors Corbin Wallace, Jonathan Perkins and Sam Gearig took second, third and fourth singles respectively. “These are probably the best singles guys I’ve had all at once,” Offord said.

Doubles action was similarly dominant as seniors Jacob Henderson and David Rutt took the number one doubles. The team of sophomore Andrew Reno and senior Kevin Veld won second doubles. Junior Seth Crabtree and senior Ricky Laham won the third doubles. In the fourth doubles, the sophomore team of Zach Meyers and Garrett Patnoude finished a close second.

“Each day we come out we’re doing better and better,” Offord said right before the boys competed in a quad tournament against Coldwater, Comstock Park and Lakeshore. The Bulldogs later won that tournament too. Once again, it was on the strength of their talented group of senior singles stars.

In their most recent matchup against Edwardsburg, those senior stars swept the rival Eddies. Victories by the number two and four doubles helped cement a 6-2 Vicksburg win in that matchup. The team also has victories over Armada, Paw Paw and Loy Norrix this season.

The team very nearly got in on a tie for first in the Hamilton Invitational too but fell just one point short. Most of the team’s big competition this year will be from Conference foes like Allegan who have defeated the Bulldogs already this year. “That regional is going to be really tough,” Offord said. “We don’t know who is going to come out of that.”

But Offord and the team are relishing the opportunity to get another chance at Allegan and all their conference rivals, especially as the teams starts facing more of them in the latter half of the season.

Lady Bulldog Golf Has Best Turnout in Years

By Travis Smola

With a full varsity and JV squad, Vicksburg’s Lady Bulldog golf teams are enjoying their best turnout ever. “In my three years of coaching, we’ve never had the participation that we’ve had so that’s a big win so far,” Head Coach Brodie Hock said before the girls participated in a league jamboree event in Dowagiac at Indian Lake.

The squad has a lot of newer players, some of whom had never swung a club once prior to joining the team. Hock said one of the girls still hadn’t taken the plastic wrap off her new clubs when she arrived for the first practice. There is stiff competition from other schools in the Wolverine Conference. The main goal is for the girls simply to improve their game.

“We’re just trying to get better, one practice at a time give or take,” Hock said. They’re seeing results. In a league jamboree at Allegan, juniors Madison Aguillon and Megan Bresnahan both shot their best games ever. Another notable recent highlight included senior Joanna Bell getting her first birdie ever on a par 3.

“There’s some new players that if they stick with it they have the potential to be really good in a couple of years,” Hock said.