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ANDY ROBERTS/Beacon File Photo

Reeths-Puffer players Alyssa Sahlhoff (left) and Caitlynn Duffey try to chase down a bloop hit during a 2019 regional semifinal softball game against Lowell. Both players are back for the 2021 season.

New Reeths-Puffer coach Sarah Ferenz played in the program and has coached several of the current players, so she knows the Rockets well. Still, the 2021 season will be interesting for her and the players as they (hopefully) fall into a routine of being on the varsity together.

The Rockets have several players back who were on the 2019 district title-winning team that was the last one to play. Among them are Paige Primmer, Caitlynn Duffey and Alyssa Sahlhoff, who were freshmen that year.

Ferenz said the Rockets held workouts over the summer and fall when allowed by the MHSAA, and of course over the last few weeks leading into the season, so they won't be coming in completely blind.

"It’s been challenging, but we’ve been able to make it work with the addition of at-home workouts as well," Ferenz said.

Even with those challenges, the Rockets are raring to go to defend their district title.

"I think players and coaches are most looking forward to competing at a high level and showing grit at practices and games," Ferenz said. "We didn’t get a chance to show who we were last year and with a younger team this year, we have a lot to look forward to."

Ferenz said last year that as many as 10 freshmen with rec experience were expected to be part of the program this year, so youth will certainly be served on this R-P team.

The Rockets will be playing in a competitive O-K Green Conference, but the rivalry with Mona Shores will remain. Adding an extra layer of interest to the rivalry this year will be the coaching matchup. Like Ferenz, new Shores coach Sydney Tharp is taking over her alma mater after the two played against one another in high school and were teammates at Muskegon Community College (R-P assistant Megan Gonyon was also on those Jayhawk teams).

R-P will also have matchups against Lowell, the team that beat the Rockets in the 2019 regional tournament, and Grand Haven, whom they beat in the district finals that year. The GMAA tournament, which the Rockets have dominated in recent years, is also a schedule highlight.

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