Brandon leads club v-ball to OSU tourney win

Lucas Rains

The Grand Valley State University women’s club volleyball team entered the NCVF Scarlet & Grey Classic championship at Ohio State University over the weekend as the only NCAA Division II school in the rankings.

The tournament, which featured some of the best club volleyball teams in the country, eventually came to an end — and GVSU remained the No. 1 team in the latest polls.

The Lakers certainly proved they are worthy of the designation as they swept the competition.

The Buckeyes’ B squad came in as the top NCVF Division II team while Michigan State University was ranked No. 2. Purdue was at No. 10 in the DI polls.

The tournament win was huge for GVSU, as it provided the team good tests to prepare for nationals.

“It’s really nice to be able to be in tough games like that and know we are able to finish,” head coach Anna Tollefson said. “The experience of being in those situations early in the year just builds confidence on a player’s ability to execute when we’re at nationals and facing similar situations.

“It’s that feeling of ‘we’ve been here before’ — and succeeded.”

The Lakers opened the pool play round with wins over the University of Pittsburgh and Xavier University in straight sets. GVSU advanced to the power pool play, where it ousted the University of Cincinnati with ease. The Lakers went on to take the first set against MSU’s B team and eventually pulled out a hard-fought 33-31 win in the second.

GVSU earned a first-round bye in the gold championship bracket but faced off against nationally-ranked Purdue University in the second round. The Lakers quickly dispatched the Boilermakers 25-15 in both sets.

The semi-finals featured a battle between two of the best teams in the country.

Top-ranked GVSU played against host OSU’s B team, where the Lakers came out on top 25-11, 25-23. The win propelled them to the championship game against the University of Wisconsin. After 25-18 and 26-24 wins, the Lakers walked away as champions.

Senior Jaimie Brandon and freshman Erika Witherspoon earned All-Tournament Team honors. Brandon was also named the tournament MVP.

“The win helped us build more confidence in ourselves and our abilities to go out there and not only compete with other top programs, but also beat them,” Brandon said.

GVSU’s B squad, which is currently an honorable mention in the DII rankings, made it to the semi-finals, but eventually dropped its match against the University of Florida to get bounced from the tournament.

The focus of the team looking ahead is staying healthy and working on the little things in practice.

“We have several players who were sick this weekend, and I really want everyone healthy and injury free from here on out,” Tollefson said. “Other than that, we are going to continue to keep improving in practice, working on our technical skills and our game-play situations. We want to get tougher and clean up our execution.”

This weekend, GVSU will host a 4-on-4 fundraising tournament. The tournament is open to any female GVSU students, and it will help the team reach its fundraising goals for nationals.

“We unfortunately could not field enough teams due to a large tournament down at Purdue, which many of the teams from around the area are attending,” GVSU club volleyball president MaKenzie Branderhorst said.

The Lakers are scheduled to play next against MSU on March 23. Beginning April 2, GVSU will travel to Reno, Nev., to play in the national tournament.