GVSU heads to regionals as No. 3 seed
The Grand Valley State University volleyball team has to be sick of seeing Hillsdale College.
When the Lakers open up the NCAA Division II Tournament in the Midwest regional as the No. 3 seed Thursday, it will be against the sixth-seeded Chargers, marking the fourth time the two teams have played this season.
“We are definitely not overlooking them,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “They were a Final Four team last year so they really know what’s at stake. That brings a lot to a team when you know what you are playing for. Our kids don’t know that.”
So far, each team has held home-court in the 2012 series. The Chargers struck first, capturing a four-set victory on Sept. 14 in Hillsdale. GVSU then turned the table, earning a four-set win on Nov. 10 and a straight-set victory in the opening round of the GLIAC conference tournament four days later, both at Fieldhouse Arena.
This time around, the Chargers and Lakers will square off on a neutral court — the Ruth Lilly Center at the University of Indianapolis.
“When you play at home it is always great because you have your fans there and draw a big crowd,” said senior middle blocker Eno Umoh. “On a neutral court, we are playing in a gym where we both are not from, so it is basically which team has more energy and more heart.”
While the focus is strictly on Hillsdale until the match is over, GVSU (25-7) sits behind Northwood University, the No. 2 seed, as well as the top seed and host, Indianapolis.
In the opening round, Northwood takes on seventh-seeded Ashland University, while Indianapolis plays Rockhurst University, the No. 8 seed. Other action includes fourth-seeded Lewis University going up against No. 5 Ferris State University.
“We can’t look past anyone and have to come and play with the same intensity just as any other game,” said freshman outside hitter Betsy Ronda. “Just stay consistent in our game and play through anything that happens will help us move along.”
Another aspect that the Lakers will have to overcome is the potential of three games in three days. They have not experienced the level of play they will see in succession if they continue to win as the second round will be played friday and the third on Saturday.
“It’s about who is going to be able to put three good days of competition together,” Scanlon said. “There is a physical component where you want to take care of business. The biggest component is the mental part of it, which is three straight days of high intensity volleyball. We’ve played some really intense matches this year so I would hope it’s something that we could carry through.”
If the Lakers defeat Hillsdale in the first round, they will then face Northwood or Ashland for a chance to get to round three, one step from nationals.
The winner of the Midwest region will advance to the Elite Eight from Dec. 6-8 at the UWF Field House in Pensacola, Fla. where they will first meet the East regional victor.