Laker volleyball approaches win No. 1,000

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck Stephanie Camper sets the ball.

Jessica Hollenbeck

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck Stephanie Camper sets the ball.

Zach Sepanik

There is a lot of planning and execution by a team that goes into winning a game, but in order to win 1,000 it takes the creation of a strong, consistent program. Friday’s contest against Lake Erie College will be the first opportunity at reaching that milestone for the Grand Valley State University volleyball team.

“I think we are all pretty awestruck about being part of the 1,000th win,” said senior middle blocker Eno Umoh. “Forever people will know the 1,000th win went to this team. We are also proud to continue on a legacy because many volleyball players that have come through this program’s history have helped to reach this same goal.”

GVSU is looking to become only the seventh team in Division II volleyball history to eclipse the mark. Close behind is the University of Tampa that sits at 997 wins, while West Texas A&M University earned their 1,000th victory in their fourth game this season.

“This is a huge achievement,” said junior middle blocker Abby Ebels. “It blows my mind thinking of the girls and the last coach and all the work they put into it when I wasn’t even born. It says a lot for our coaches and the type of program they have built up.”

Reaching 1,000 victories will be a culmination of the efforts of athletes, coaches and administration throughout the history of the GVSU volleyball program, which began in 1969.

“We talk a lot about tradition in our program from the start of the recruiting process,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “We want kids in our program that understand the legacy they are stepping into. This week is one of those crossroad moments where we get to look back and think about the tradition and all the people that put the time and effort into the program.”

In their 44-year history, Laker volleyball has only seen two head coaches roam the sideline. Scanlon followed in the footsteps of Joan Boand, the first head coach of GVSU volleyball, who also established the program in a time when women’s sports were an afterthought.

“There was a nucleus of females that played softball and I talked to them about volleyball, so we gave it a go,” Boand said. “It was a slow start and there wasn’t a lot of money. I had to beg for money from the athletic director who set aside all the money for men. Nobody had really planned for it and it became a spontaneous development. Without a budget of my own I had to go very carefully.”

Boand coached from 1969 to 1994, compiling 545 career wins, six GLIAC championships and leading the 1986 team to a school-record 42 wins.

Before taking over as head coach upon Boand’s retirement, Scanlon had stints as an assistant coach at Western Michigan University, Wayne State University and Concordia College. Boand and Scanlon really did not know each other prior to Scanlon’s hiring, but Boand says there was something she saw that told her Scanlon was the right person for the job.

“I’ll tell you what I did know — when she was Wayne State’s assistant, they did very well, and when she wasn’t Wayne State’s assistant, they didn’t do that good, and I knew she brought something to that program,” Boand said. “I left the program here and they were in the process of hiring a new coach. She had sent me her resume. It was out of my hands; I was not doing the hiring. But I took it and put it on the athletic director’s desk and said you better take a good look at this person.”

In her 18th season now as head coach, Scanlon won the program’s first ever D-II National Championship in 2005, the same year she was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year, and has guided GVSU to eight NCAA Elite Eight berths. Between the two, GVSU volleyball is in the midst of 19 consecutive winning seasons, a huge factor in the push toward 1,000 wins.

That model of consistency, always having a devoted leader in place, allowed GVSU volleyball to hit the ground running and over the years has instilled a tradition of winning, something that has helped the Lakers get within three sets of this historic milestone for the program.

“We’ve come a long way, baby,” Boand said. “We’ve just come a long way.”

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