GV volleyball starts season strong, home opener around the corner

GVL / Ally Young
Sophmore Clair Ruhenkamp during a recent practice

Ally Young

GVL / Ally Young Sophmore Clair Ruhenkamp during a recent practice

Zach Sepanik

Home is where the heart is, but don’t tell the Grand Valley State University volleyball team who opened their season last weekend with a 3-1 record in Monmouth, Ore. at the Western Oregon Classic.

To begin the 2012 campaign, the Lakers defeated California State University-Los Angeles in four sets. They continued their strong play by winning two five-set matches against Missouri University of Science and Technology and Western Oregon University. The team’s lone loss came at the hands of Western Washington University in straight sets.

“Beating Missouri S&T really helped us especially since they are in our region,” said sophomore outside hitter Abby Aiken, who led the Lakers in kills in all four matches. “It was also a big character builder coming off our first loss and seeing how everyone reacted.”
Beside Aiken, freshman outside hitter Betsy Ronda also stepped up offensively. In the first match, her Laker debut, she surpassed the double-digit mark in kills. Then against Missouri S&T, she helped GVSU hold on to win by delivering a double-double with 16 kills and 15 digs. Versus Western Oregon, the freshman provided another double-double with 11 kills and 14 digs.

The strong individual performances were all part of a total team effort that saw the Lakers work collectively to get off on the right foot.

“We have a whole new energy and it was obviously a long weekend but we just wanted to finish out and start the season right,” Ronda said. “Just staying upbeat and positive and really trying to push through together, it set the pace for the rest of the season.”
For GVSU, five-set matches were a test they could never pass a year ago. By traveling a great distance to the West Coast, the coaching staff hoped it would not only provide outstanding competition, but also be something that would build greater team camaraderie to avoid tendencies like last season.

“Part of the reason I like to travel early on is because when you travel you are going to face some unknowns and we faced a lot of that this weekend,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “When you have the bonds it helps. Last year we did lose those matches. It is a bit of a reversal from where we were. I knew that we were going to see some good competition out there and to come away with a 3-1 record speaks to how hard we competed.”

Following their travels, the Lakers were eager to return to practice as soon as they got back in Allendale. They host the two-day Riverfront Hotel Grand Rapids Classic starting tomorrow, marking their home opener.

GVSU will have several golden opportunities to work on problem areas they saw in their opening matches and also to continue to execute the positive play that led them in Oregon.
“We were actually talking about it on the plane ride home about how excited we are,” Aiken said. “But nothing is going to be set in stone in any game. You have to adapt and that is a big thing we have been working on. The whole traveling built us together as a closer team.”

The University of the District of Columbia will be GVSU’s afternoon opponent Friday, before facing Barry University in the nightcap. On Saturday, the Lakers will face Stonehill College and Seton Hill University.

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