GVSU volleyball falls in thriller to No. 5 Ferris State

Lakers lose by slim margin in five-set epic at Fieldhouse Arena

By Alex Eisen | 11/4/15 10:01pm


GVL/Luke Holmes

The Grand Valley State volleyball team had No. 5 Ferris State on the ropes in front of a lively crowd inside Fieldhouse Arena, but failed to connect on the knockout punch.

In a rematch between conference arch rivals, GVSU (16-9, 10-4 GLIAC) took the opening two sets, but didn’t put forth enough to finish the Bulldogs off. FSU (24-2, 13-1 GLIAC) stormed back to win the final three sets to defeat the Lakers 3-2, by scores of 23-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-13.

“Total disappointment. There is no moral victory at all in going five (sets) with them,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “We continued to let them get back into the match and we had players not make adjustments needed.”

GVSU lost in four sets at FSU earlier in the season, but this defeat had more resemblance to dark past of the 2013 Midwest Regional Championship match, where the Lakers did the exact same thing – won the first two sets and let the Bulldogs come back to take it in five.

Scanlon needed to settle the Lakers down early in the contest by calling a timeout early in the first set as the offense wasn’t having any success (-.143 hitting percentage). GVSU regrouped to hit .304 in the first frame with a match-high 20 kills.

The Lakers fought back in the opening frame on multiple occasions. FSU steadily maintained a two-to-three point cushion before Laker freshman Staci Brower took over late in the frame.

Brower was unstoppable at the net with seven kills on nine attacking attempts, as she closed out the first set by knocking down GVSU's last three points.

Brower showed her presence again, this time defensively, in the early stages of the second set, factoring in three consecutive blocks to give GVSU an early 8-6 lead.

FSU keyed in on Brower for the rest of the match.

GVSU, however, continued to push the middle of the court, as senior middle blocker Kaleigh Lound led the team in kills (17), attacks (41) and total points (17.5).

Even the setters, freshman Taylor Stewart and sophomore Katie Olson, were finding holes in the FSU defense in first two sets as they notched four combined kills. Olson led the Lakers in assists (36), and added 22 digs.

Senior libero Taylor Shomin finished with a team-high 25 digs. The defense was solid early, holding FSU to a .194 hitting percentage and nine kills in set one, but slowly fell apart as the match wore on.

“I thought the defense was good the first two sets and then we just got lackadaisical in the last three (sets),” Shomin said. “We stuck to our scouting report in the first two games and then we just resorted to what was comfortable and not going with what we needed to do. (We) played it safe.”

Junior Megan Vander Meer was the catalyst behind the FSU rally, coming up with 19 kills in the final three sets. Vander Meer ended with a match-high 30 points.

Senior Betsy Ronda had 12 kills and 20 digs, but couldn’t capitalize when the pressure was on.

“We made errors and needed to make a big play,” Ronda said. “We resorted to our old ways. We got caught up in the moment and tried to get power swings instead of being smart.”

GVSU jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the fifth set and got the crowd back into the match.

Then, the Lakers got aced on serve, put digs into the net and smashed a couple balls out of play.

Combined with a couple of lengthy rallies, and it was the Bulldog supporters that made the noise.

The Lakers left stunned on their home court, losing the final set, 15-13.

“When it comes down to it in the end, the plays that were on the seniors’ hands in the fifth set were errors,” Scanlon said. “In those moments you have to have your best performance and in the end we had nobody stepping up to perform and no seniors giving leadership.

“We still have young kids out there – three freshmen and a sophomore – and they need leadership. They need to be shown how it’s done. They need to have their nerves calmed.”

The Lakers have two more home matches this weekend inside Fieldhouse Arena against Northwood (11-14, 7-7 GLIAC) on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. and Lake Superior State (0-21, 0-14 GLIAC) on Nov. 7 at 4 p.m. before finishing off the conference regular season on the road next week.

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