Midterm: Lakers ace every test after 2-2 start
No. 11 GVSU volleyball team checks in with 13-2 record
Senior Betsy Ronda (#6) puts down a kill against Ferris State in a 2014 matchup. Ronda picked up her 1,000th career kill over the weekend in the GVSU Laker Riverfront Classic.
After the first weekend of the 2014 season, several question marks sprung up regarding the Grand Valley State University volleyball team. The Lakers posted a 2-2 record at the Oredigger Classic in Colorado, leading many to question if GVSU was worthy of its No. 14 national ranking.
A month later, the question marks have been erased. GVSU has rattled off 11 straight victories, bringing its overall record to 13-2 (11-0 GLIAC).
“We have grown so much mentally since that first trip out west,” said GVSU coach Deanne Scanlon. “Our girls have had the attitude of getting better each and every day in practice, and it has showed in the win/loss column.”
Now, with only 10 games remaining on the schedule and just seven in GLIAC play, it’s time to evaluate the work the Laker volleyball team has done thus far:
GVSU’s defense has been a staple of the Lakers' success so far this season. GVSU has swept eight of 11 conference opponents, a testament to the defense’s ability to close out games.
“I think our defense has been so strong in large part because of the experience that we have on this team,” said senior libero Christina Canepa. “We really don’t get flustered, and everyone knows where they need to be. It takes the thinking out of it, and we just play.”
Outside Hitters: B
Senior Abby Aiken and junior Betsy Ronda anchor GVSU's outside hitters and have done a formidable job. However, the Lakers are ranked 13th in the conference in errors with 210 – a number they would like to see decline.
“We’ve been getting better offensively, but I don’t think we’re really close to where we want to be,” Aiken said. “We have to become more consistent within our offense to really see the progress that we’re striving for.”
Middle Blockers: A-
The trio of senior Ally Simmons, junior Kaleigh Lound and freshman Sydney Doby have platooned at the net to give the Lakers different looks to keep the opposition guessing. Ranking third in the GLIAC with 2.29 blocks per set, the Lakers have found a system that is working.
“Lound is the explosive middle that can come in swinging, while Simmons has a knack for digging under the opponents skin,” Scanlon said. “(Simmons) knows the game so well and always seems to be a step ahead of everyone. Then there’s Sydney, who brings that added athleticism. It’s great knowing that any one of them can step up at any given time.”
Scanlon has proved she’s not afraid to mix things up whenever she feels necessary. The competitive atmosphere that she has created amongst her team has allowed for GVSU's depth to be instrumental game in and game out.
“These girls are battling each day at practice because they know that just about anyone can step up and make an impact,” Scanlon said. “How far we go this year will depend greatly on the role that our bench plays.”
Scanlon has done an impressive job of mixing up the lineup and finding ways to challenge her players to reach out of their comfort zones. The move to include Doby in the lineup has added athleticism and size to the Lakers, and is just one example of how Scanlon has been successful managing the roster.
“We have too many weapons on our team to not use multiple lineups for different situations,” Scanlon said. “It was a learning curve at first, but these girls are around each other so much in practice and off the court that they have been able to adapt to just about any lineup that is out on the court at any given time.”
Overall grade: A (3.74 GPA)
The Lakers are in the midst of their strongest roll of the season, and compete next at the GLIAC-GLVC Crossover Tournament on Friday and Saturday.