MUSKEGON — Montague had wanted the matchup with Fruitport ever since losing to the Trojans in the GMAA finals, and Wednesday the Wildcats took advantage, winning the rematch 25-21, 25-16, 15-25, 25-18 to reach the district finals.
Montague dominated game two, building a 21-9 lead at one point, before a late spate of errors allowed the Trojans to salvage something with a run. Then, in game three, Fruitport changed its defense, focusing on blocking the middle, and got back in the match with a big win. So coach Shawn Bectel, seeing this, countered with his own tweaks.
“We really had to change our game in those last couple of sets, because they changed theirs,” Bectel said. “I was really proud of my girls to be able to change the way we were playing in the beginning, which we had so much success (with), and go to something totally different, that wasn’t normal for us, and still get the job done.”
The adjustments paid off in the fourth game. Fruitport took an early lead, but the Wildcats stayed close enough to take advantage of its own late run, pulling away with an 8-2 spurt to close out the match.
Montague hit well, posting a .234 average as a team, a number that was even better outside of the third game.
“We just clicked,” Bectel said. “The girls were passing well. The passing was just amazing. Hitters were taking care of the ball...We just clicked on all phases, really.”
In some tense moments in game four, with the Trojans threatening to send the match to a fifth game with all the momentum, Reilly Murphy said she drew upon the bitter memories of the GMAA loss for motivation.
“I remembered the city meet and thought, we can’t let this drop again,” Murphy said. “I think we all did that. ‘We can’t do that now.’ We know we have a big run this year with the people we have on our team.”
That tack seemed to work for Murphy, who hit .375 and tallied a team-best 19 kills. She also tied with Maddy Wynn for the team lead in digs, with 20.
“Reilly is just a special kid,” Bectel said. “She really is. It’s funny, because if you’d have asked her last year, she’d have said her defense was horrible. She worked on it and got better, plus, she still hits. It’s always nice to have that kid that’s in there all the time.”
Reilly’s twin sister Raegan Murphy had 46 assists and four aces. Ally Hall notched 15 kills and had six blocks. Janae Koetje had five blocks of her own.
Montague served well overall, making only six errors in four games. The ‘Cats had eight aces.
“The first game, I think we missed a few, and I told the girls, let’s try to control the things we can control,” Bectel said. “We kept them out of system, to be honest. In that third game, they were in system all the time and you could just tell. After that, we started serving them a little bit tougher and we got back in the flow of things.”