Scanlon enters '14 on brink of win No. 500
For the last 19 years, the Grand Valley State University volleyball program hasn’t made many changes. GVSU hasn't made any drastic personnel moves, tried different philosophies or brought in greater influences to lead the team.
It hasn't had to.
Rather, the team has been racking up wins, and lots of them. In fact, the Lakers have posted a winning record in each of the last 19 seasons. They've finished with 20 or more wins 15 times in that span, and on seven occasions have had 30 or more victories.
There has been one constant variable with all of those teams: head coach Deanne Scanlon, who is just one victory away from joining the 500 career win club.
“A lot of how I coach is how I live my personal life,” Scanlon said. “I enjoy life. I like to laugh and I know that the kids pick up on that. The success that our program has experienced comes from a great amount of work but also a core relationship between myself and our athletes.”
Scanlon, who has a career record of 499-147 (.722), has proved over time that developing a close-knit family of student athletes often leads to opportunities for success on and off the court.
On and off the court, her players have recognized that.
“Outside of volleyball, she’s really big on making you a better person in general,” senior Clair Ruhenkamp said. “She is great at bringing the team together and sort of building us together from within.”
After a gut-wrenching home loss to rival Ferris State University in the regional championship last season, this year’s team is determined to get Scanlon her 500th win – and many more after that.
“The way that we ended last year’s season is something that I don’t think we will forget,” said senior Ally Simmons. “It has lit a fire for all of us, every day in practice it pushes us to get better. It also made us realize that every point matters. I think that will be huge for us going forward.”
Avenging a tough loss from a year ago is on the list of things the Lakers want to accomplish for their heralded coach in the upcoming season, which starts on Sept. 5 against Minnesota State University Moorhead at the Oredigger Classic in Golden, Colo.
With five of six returning starters, a trio of All-Americans and plenty of depth coming back, this year’s team is poised to give the four-time GLIAC Coach of the Year what could be one of her most successful seasons to date.
"I think that this year we are poised to accomplish a number of things on the court that haven't been done around here in a long time," Ruhenkamp said.
Adding yet another GLIAC and regional crown to her resume are the main priority for GVSU, but this year's team just might have the pedigree to compete for another championship at a national level.
It wouldn't be the first time for Scanlon, who guided the Lakers to a national title in 2005. That triumph was the first of its kind for a women's sport at GVSU.
However, it's the relationships built and the life lessons learned that matter to Scanlon in comparison to all of the on-court success her team has experienced during her tenure.
“Coach Scanlon is someone you can go to for life advice, she has your best interest in mind at all times,” Simmons said. “She shapes you as an individual in so many ways off the court that furthers you in the best way possible.”
Whether it’s advice pertaining to volleyball or to being a better person, Scanlon has embodied what it means to be a coach. Her reach transcends the game, and her team’s success is a byproduct of her leadership.