GVSU volleyball wins pair of conference matchups

Brower, Lound lead Lakers to back-to-back GLIAC victories

By Alex Eisen | 11/1/15 9:48pm

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GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Staci Brower (21) celebrates with her teammates after a point scored. Grand Valley squares off against Ohio Dominican and claims the victory with a final score of 3-1.

by Kevin Sielaff / Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Grand Valley State volleyball team was given a slight scare on Halloween weekend, but was able to block out the past and get back on track.

GVSU (16-8, 10-3 GLIAC) needed all five sets on Friday to knock off Northern Michigan (17-8, 6-7 GLIAC) by scores of 25-20, 20-25, 25-22, 12-25, 15-10. The Lakers then defeated Michigan Tech (17-8, 8-5 GLIAC) Saturday evening in four sets (25-16, 25-18, 21-25, 25-14).

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Jillian Butsavich (12) and Shannon Winicki (18) rise up for a block. Grand Valley squares off against Ohio Dominican and claims the victory with a final score of 3-1.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Staci Brower (21) gets a hand on the ball to prevent a Tiffin point. Grand Valley sweeps Tiffin Oct. 3 after three sets inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale.

Over the course of the two victories, GVSU stonewalled its opponents at the net with 32 blocks.

The Lakers went into Friday’s road match against NMU prepared to go the distance again, after losing in five sets to Findlay last week, but this time GVSU got a different outcome.

“We spent all week this past week physically just playing 15-point sets,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “It definitely paid off because I think we felt pretty confident going into set five, and we probably played our best volleyball in set five, which doesn’t (normally) happen.”

From some of its best volleyball to its worst, GVSU quickly regrouped to take the fifth set after scoring a season-low 12 points in the fourth frame.

NMU's service game was effective throughout the match. The Wildcats served up 13 aces and kept the Lakers off-balance in their attempts to start rallies.

When GVSU was able to return the ball, the offense wasn’t much better than the defense. The Lakers collectively had a .110 hitting percentage, the lowest mark all season in a match they have won.

“Nothing was real pretty all night long,” Scanlon said. “It was just grinding it out, especially after we kind of got blown out in set four. Being able to bounce back, I thought that was a good sign for us, being on the road especially.”

NMU’s offense couldn’t get going, either. GVSU’s net-front presence induced 15 team blocks and held NMU to a season-worst .072 hitting percentage.

Freshman middle blocker Staci Brower was in the center of the action, putting up a career-high 10 total blocks. Brower also added 10 kills, making her the first Laker to record double-digits in both categories during a match since Rebeccah Rapin in 2010.

“We have been working on our blocks and we have been working on getting into the air sooner,” Brower said. “So, I think that translated to on the court finally. I also think that, with our teammates talking to us (the middle blockers), and letting us know where the ball was going, it made it easier for us to get out to the block.”

A trio of seniors took over to aid Brower's strong performance. Fellow middle blocker Kaleigh Lound led GVSU with 13 kills, while libero Taylor Shomin and outside hitter Betsy Ronda combined for half of the Lakers’ 88 digs.

Sophomore setter Katie Olson chipped in 13 digs to go along with her team-high 27 assists, and freshman Taylor Stewart, Olson’s rotating setter counterpart, provided creativity with three kills on four attempts.

Impenetrable defense and aggressive blocking carried over into Saturday’s game against Michigan Tech.

GVSU came out strong and took the opening frame 25-16, by forcing MTU into nine attack errors (.021 hitting percentage) and denying the Huskies at the net five times.

From there, the blocks kept coming, as GVSU recorded a season-high 17.

Over halfway through the second set, with GVSU leading 14-13, Lound and Ronda worked together for three tag-team blocks in a span of five points. GVSU only had three kills in the set leading up to that point.

Lound finished the match with a team-high 13 kills and 10 total blocks. One day after Brower went double-digits in both categories for the first time at GVSU since 2010, Lound achieved the feat again.

“I think that’s really cool, especially that the two of us were able to do it in one weekend,” Lound said. “Before the matches, we knew this weekend was going to be a really big weekend for us and kind of set the tone for the (upcoming) postseason.

“So, (Brower and I) just both went out and put our best out there and that’s what resulted.”

MTU couldn’t find any offensive answers, hitting -.025 with 10 attacking errors in the second set.

Brower, meanwhile, picked up the attacking pace for GVSU, as she snagged four of its next seven kills, including the set-winner, to give the Lakers a commanding 2-0 set lead.

Facing defeat, MTU clawed back into the match with 14 kills to win set three.

GVSU jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the fourth set, and didn’t look back, hitting .389 to seal the victory, 3-1.

Olson led the team in digs (25) to complete her double-double with 26 assists.

Brower had a team-best .346 hitting percentage en route to 12 kills and five more blocks.

Ronda padded her stat line with 15 digs, nine kills, five blocks and three aces.

The Lakers will be seeking redemption as they host conference rival No. 1 Ferris State (23-2, 12-1 GLIAC) on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.

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