GVSU volleyball sends seniors off with win
Laker seniors see extended time on Senior Day 2015
For a split second, the Grand Valley State volleyball team's NCAA tournament chances took a major blow.
But the appeals by the Northwood players saying the Lakers had tipped the ball at the net were denied. By a matter of inches, GVSU survived match point.
After salvaging set four, GVSU (18-9, 12-4 GLIAC) went on to beat Northwood (11-16, 7-9 GLIAC) Friday night in the fifth set to win 3-2, by scores of 25-18, 23-25, 16-25, 26-24, 15-8.
Then, Saturday afternoon on Senior Day, the Lakers coasted past a winless Lake Superior State (0-23, 0-16 GLIAC) squad in straight sets (25-15, 25-15, 25-11).
Coming into the weekend, GVSU was ranked sixth in the recently published NCAA Division II regional rankings, with the top eight teams making the NCAA tournament. Despite escaping with a close victory against Northwood, GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon still wasn’t pleased with what she saw.
“We did not deserve to win that match,” Scanlon said. “I think it was very plain to see, if you’re a fan or you don’t know much about the game, the reason (Northwood) were able to stay in the match was they worked harder and had better effort on plays than what we did.
“(I’m) disappointed in our lack of emotion and basically getting outworked most of the match.”
It wasn't the bounce-back performance Scanlon wanted after what happened in GVSU’s last match against No. 5 Ferris State, as the Bulldogs came back from a 2-0 deficit to win in five sets.
The GVSU offense went with power over finesse for the majority of the match against Northwood. Reluctant to adjust and take more off-speed shots, the Lakers struggled to get the ball down at times (.171 hitting percentage), and Northwood collected a season-high 111 digs.
Scanlon started the match with a different look, using sophomore Katie Olson as the primary setter. Halfway through the second set, Scanlon didn’t see enough to stick with the formation change, and began rotating freshman setter Taylor Stewart back into the action.
“We thought we would have a little bit more flexibility in our lineup,” Scanlon said. “But people didn’t come ready to play. The one thing that was going well for us was our block, so when we run the one setter we kind of give that up a little bit.
“I figured we got to at least go back and try to have our block keep us in the match for a while, so we switched back to the 6-2 (formation). And it did, our block kept us in it and was probably the only reason we won.”
Seniors Betsy Ronda, Kourtney Wolters and Kaleigh Lound, alongside freshman Staci Brower, finished with five or more total blocks, as the Lakers put up a season-high 18 blocks.
For the third time this season, GVSU also reached triple-digits in digs (100). Senior libero Taylor Shomin notched a team-high 22 digs, including a clutch pickup during the set-winning rally in the fourth frame.
GVSU opened the fourth set with an 11-3 lead, but Northwood fought back to make it to 12-10. A rally allowed the Lakers to pull away again, 22-15.
The Timberwolves stormed back with an 8-0 run to grab the lead, and eventually forced match point at 23-24.
GVSU stayed alive after three Northwood attacking errors ensued: a kill attempt that was overhit and not tipped at the net, a Ronda-Lound block and a ball tapped just out of bounds.
“We were lucky to pull out set four,” Scanlon said. “It’s just kind of the same old, same old with this team. They can’t figure out how to win versus trying not to lose.”
After falling behind 3-0 to open the decisive fifth frame, GVSU sparked an 8-0 run of its own. The Lakers hit .375 with 10 kills in the set to close out the match, 15-8.
Senior Jessica Majerle led the way offensively with 12 kills and a .300 hitting percentage.
Celebrating Senior Day the following afternoon was less stressful, but just as emotional.
Lake Superior State came into the contest having won two sets all season.
The Allendale Lakers had no intentions of letting the other Lakers from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan spoil the occasion, as GVSU recognized its seven seniors before the match.
Senior Audrey Kidd replaced Brower in the lineup for nearly the whole match. The two of them exchanged a hug when Brower subbed in to play the final two rallies. Brower didn’t waste any time, getting GVSU’s last kill of the match.
“We might not have the best record we have ever had, but this is the best group of girls I’ve ever got the chance to play with,” Kidd said. “It was a bittersweet feeling to be able to be out there playing with them tonight.”
Kidd knocked down eight kills and was outdone only by Ronda, who had 12 kills on 21 attempts (.524 hitting percentage).
The Lakers offense couldn’t be stopped no matter who was on the court, as they posted a season-high .351 hitting percentage. Scanlon rotated in 15 of the 19 players on the roster and even got the opportunity to pull the seniors off the court near the end of the match to give the crowd one last chance to applaud them.
LSSU never led in the match and only tied the score once, 1-1 in the first set.
In a few odd twists, LSSU was given a yellow card for substitution infractions, Lound showed off her setter skills with an assist for GVSU and Wolters enjoyed her second Senior Day after getting another year of eligibility over the offseason.
“This is it. I don’t get another opportunity like last Senior Night,” Wolters said. “It was really great to finally know this was my Senior Night and to go out with that mentality.”
GVSU is on the road for its final two regular season conference matches against Saginaw Valley State (21-6, 11-5 GLIAC) on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. and Wayne State (12-16, 7-9 GLIAC) on Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. With a pair of victories, Scanlon would surpass former head coach Joan Boand for most wins in program history.