No. 18 GVSU rolls in weekend matches
Lakers beat Wayne State and Saginaw Valley State in convincing fashion
No solid rotation, no problem.
The No. 18 Grand Valley State volleyball team picked up a pair of victories over the weekend beating GLIAC opponents Wayne State in straight sets (25-23, 25-12, 25-21) and Saginaw Valley State (26-24, 26-28, 25-17, 25-19) to open up conference play.
“I think it’s kind of been our theme so far, ‘What’s our lineup going to be?’” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “But, it’s good to see we are able to fight through some of the changes we had to make.”
Senior leader Kaleigh Lound sat out the first match due to illness, and starting outsider hitter Brooke Smith missed the second game with a sprained ankle.
The Lakers (6-4, 2-0 in the GLIAC) were tested Friday night as WSU (3-7) pulled out to a 20-14 lead in the first set. With tensions high, GVSU rallied back to take six of the next seven points and forced WSU’s head coach Tim Koth into calling a timeout.
The team talk wasn’t enough – momentum had shifted for good. Freshman Staci Brower, who has a team-best 3.33 kills per set this season, ended the first frame with back-to-back authoritative spikes to complete the comeback, 25-23.
“It’s something we will have to get used to all year long, teams coming after us hard in the first set,” Scanlon said. “We just keep plugging along. I don’t think we played to the scoreboard, I think we just keep trying to execute.
“You just have to make those plays at the key points of the match and we obviously did. Staci took those two big swings at the end of the first set and kind of set the tone for set two – an exclamation point.”
Regaining form after having offseason surgery, senior Betsy Ronda played the entire match for the first time this season and looked in good shape, recording a double-double (10 kills and 15 digs).
Freshman Jillian Butsavich got extensive playing time as she filled in seamlessly for Lound. Butsavich picked up seven kills and led all hitters with a .462 hitting percentage.
“It was really loud and different than high school,” Butsavich said. “But, the team was really supportive and with me every step of the way, so I felt confident and comfortable on the court."
GVSU’s defense improved drastically in the second and third sets, collecting a total of 10 team blocks and holding WSU to a season-low .071 hitting percentage. Brower assisted on five blocks - two solos - and senior captain Kourtney Wolters assisted on four with one solo.
A quick turnaround and GVSU was right back at it Saturday afternoon with SVSU (8-2) making the trip to Allendale for the second GLIAC showdown of the weekend.
SVSU’s season-opening 8-game winning streak was snapped the night before at No. 4 Ferris State (18-25, 19-25, 23-25). The Cardinals took their frustrations out on GVSU, taking the second of two closely fought sets.
They locked on to the Lakers’ attack early with 11 team blocks, highlighting a problem Scanlon would like to see her team work through.
“We want to do the same thing all the time and then teams start to block us," Scanlon said. "So, then it’s like OK, ‘All right, coach is right. Let’s switch it up a little bit.’”
Senior Jessica Majerle stepped in for the injured Smith and led the team in kills (14) and tied Brower for best hitting percentage (.250).
Majerle ended the match by dropping a kill right in the middle of SVSU’s defense.
“They had some really big blocks,” Majerle said. “It was really nice I could get that last kill.”
Ronda, Brower and Wolters finished with double-doubles.
Sophomore setter Katie Olson dished out career-high 33 assists. She only had 36 total assists last season being behind Kaitlyn Wolters on the depth chart.
The Lakers are back on the road next weekend to play Malone on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. and Walsh on Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. GVSU is 6-0 all-time against these two short-lived GLIAC programs as both universities are preparing to leave for the G-MAC in the next couple of seasons.