GVSU splits home weekend series

The Lakers defeated Northern Michigan 3-1 but lost to Michigan Tech by the same score

By Brady McAtamney | 10/30/16 11:24pm

GVL / Luke Holmes - The team celebrates after scoring. GVSU volleyball lost to Michigan Tech on Saturday, Oct. 29. 2016.
by Luke Holmes and Luke Holmes / The Lanthorn

The Grand Valley State volleyball team split yet another weekend series at home, beating the Northern Michigan Wildcats (13-12, 4-7 GLIAC) in a 3-1 affair Friday, Oct. 28 and then fell 3-1 to the Michigan Tech Huskies (12-13, 7-5 GLIAC) Saturday, Oct. 29. The Lakers now sit at 13-10 (7-5 GLIAC).

The first set of the weekend at Fieldhouse Arena saw that Lakers fall behind 24-19 after some back and forth action, but GVSU worked their way back into the set, eventually winning 27-25. After letting the Wildcats win the next set 25-23 with a comeback effort of their own, the Lakers took control of the third, winning in a blowout 25-12 and then took care of business in the fourth set with a 25-22 tally.

Freshman Jayci Suseland led GVSU with 14 kills and 2.5 blocks, while junior Sydney Doby added eight kills plus three blocks and sophomore Staci Brower pitched in with seven kills and 4.5 blocks. Sophomore Brooke Smith and freshman Kendall Yerkes each tallied eight blocks and combined for 21 digs. Sophomore Taylor Stewart dished out 22 assists and dug 15 balls while junior Katie Olson handed out 19 assists and helped out with seven digs.

Despite totaling 12 fewer digs, the Lakers outmatched the Wildcats by blocking six more shots (16 to 10) and committing a whopping 19 fewer attack errors.

When asked what it was that allowed their team to come out with a commanding victory, head coach Deanne Scanlon knew right away what the main factors were.

“Blocking and serving. They kind of go hand in hand,” Scanlon said. “When we have a good serve and can get them scrambling on that first ball that they have to attack, it allows our block to get set up and lets them get in good position.”

There was also a Laker who played a key role in the victory but did not necessarily show up in the stat sheet.

“One player who stood out to me was Sydney (Benchley), our libero,” Doby said. “There were a lot of times where we would be going through super long rallies and whether they were blocking or swinging short, I always heard her behind me and that was a really important key because that’s something we work on as a team, communication. I heard her behind me and I think it made a difference whether it showed up in the stats or not, because she helped us win.”

Grand Valley State was not able to carry the momentum of the victory into the next afternoon when the Huskies rolled into Fieldhouse Arena.

Michigan Tech took the first set rather handily 25-19, but the Lakers stormed back and nabbed the second by a 25-15 tally. After looking like it might be a well contested match, the Huskies claimed the third and fourth sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-22 to win the game.

Brower put up 13 kills and four blocks, which led all Lakers in each stat. Yerkes and Smith each contributed seven kills and a block while sophomore Jillian Butsavich added six kills and three blocks. Four Lakers tallied double digits in digs, with senior Amanda Glaza leading the way with 12 and Yerkes, Smith and Olson coming in right behind her with 11 each. Olson also dished out 19 assists while Stewart handed out 17.

The Lakers again put on a strong blocking performance, blocking 14 shots to the Huskies' eight, but a lack of energy and little innovation on offense seemed to derail GVSU.

“Our lack of engagement right from the start (hurt us),” Scanlon said. “I just told them, I am so baffled how they could come out and perform like that and be so disengaged right from the start. Where we’re sitting at, we’re at home, where we’re sitting in the conference and what our losses meant, and to have that lack of emotion, I feel like we took huge steps back today."

Both teams came into the weekend tied in the GLIAC standings, and with GVSU’s win on Friday coupled with MTU’s loss the same day, the Lakers were in prime position to acquire some breathing room for themselves in the standings. Instead, they fell back into an air-tight race.

There were, however, some positives to take out of the Tech game. Glaza and sophomore Shannon Winicki, who played in her first game in over a month due to injury, stepped in and provided some play-making and energy to help the Lakers. Although it was not enough for the win, the two figure to factor into the game plan going forward.

After the disappointing outcome, the Lakers will have to quickly move on as a road battle with rival Ferris State looms Tuesday, Nov. 1. Despite not necessarily playing at their top potential, the Lakers feel they now have the fuel required to bounce back and upend the conference leaders.

“I think we have a fire under us now that we realize we messed up tonight,” Brower said. “It’s Ferris, it’s in their home gym, so it’s going to be a lot of energy from their fans so it’s going to be a lot of hard work to come back and battle back against Ferris.”

The rivalry game against the 20-5 (11-1 GLIAC) Bulldogs tips off at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1 in Big Rapids, Michigan.

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