Midseason Grades: Volleyball earns A-
It would be an understatement to say the No. 20 Grand Valley State University women’s volleyball team has exceeded its expectations midway through its 2013 campaign. GVSU (14-3, 8-1 GLIAC) currently holds the No. 1 spot in the conference after being tabbed as the North Division’s third-best team in the 2013 GLIAC Coaches’ Preseason Volleyball Poll.
It has upset the No. 6 team in the AVCA Top-25 on two occasions and boasts a 3-1 overall record against ranked opponents. It has won 12 of its last 13 games and is the highest-ranked squad in the GLIAC.
OFFENSIVE GRADE: A-
The GVSU attack has the ability to end matches in a hurry.
The team’s offense is highlighted by its outside hitters, sophomore Betsy Ronda and junior Abby Aiken. Both captains hold a top-10 kills-per-set mark in the GLIAC and are the only duo in the conference to accomplish the feat.
Ronda was as good as advertised early in the season but suffered an abdominal injury during the team’s trip to Colorado in September. She has been in and out of the lineup ever since but has played through the pain when needed.
The team will be much harder to stop when the 2012 GLIAC Freshman of the Year is healthy.
Aiken has done the majority of attacking in Ronda’s absence after being named an All-GLIAC Second-Team honoree in 2012. She has taken on a leadership role this year, and the ball seems to head in her direction when the game is on the line.
Junior setter Kaitlyn Wolters has been a key piece to the puzzle after transferring from Grand Rapids Community College where she won a NJCAA Division II National Championship in 2012. Wolters has quickly adjusted to competition in the GLIAC and appears to be a catalyst offensively.
The team has also found an inside presence with a pair of emerging middle blockers.
Sophomore Kaleigh Lound and junior Ally Simmons seem to improve every match and make the most of their opportunities when attacking. The team could benefit from using the duo more often.
DEFENSIVE GRADE: B
The Lakers have been solid thus far from a defensive standpoint.
Junior libero Christina Canepa ranks sixth in the GLIAC with 258 digs and has been a steady presence for the team all season long. She has made a number of athletic plays to keep the ball alive and rarely makes a mistake.
Lound also makes her presence felt on the defensive end, holding the seventh spot in the conference with 1.00 blocks per set. She seems to have a knack for coming up with momentum-swinging blocks in important matches.
The team does not appear to have any blaring defensive weaknesses and generally displays excellent technique.
Head coach Deanne Scanlon just keeps on winning.
Scanlon has been able to turn a young team into a first-place team during her 19th season at the helm, and her ability to adapt is one of the reasons she has the 10th-best all-time winning percentage in the NCAA Division II.
The Lakers have kept their composure in close matches despite having six times as many underclassmen as seniors, and the calming presence seems to come from their head coach.
It’s been a work-in-progress for the 2005 AVCA National Coach of the Year. Her offensive focus is finding balance, and the Lakers will need to continue to spread the ball around in order to win down the stretch.
Her team has had to overcome a number of injuries this season but has not missed a beat. The top-to-bottom talent she has on her roster shows why she is one of the best recruiters in the GLIAC.
GVSU also benefits from having an experienced associate head coach in Jason Johnson, who has been with the team for more than 14 years.
TEAM GRADE: A-
If the team can stay healthy, it may have what it takes to win its first GLIAC title since 2008.