Volleyball to open GLIAC tournament

GVL Archive / Nicole Lamson
Rebecca Rapin send the ball over the net during a past game against Saginaw Valley

GVL Archive / Nicole Lamson Rebecca Rapin send the ball over the net during a past game against Saginaw Valley

Brady Fredericksen

Since the end of last year, the Grand Valley State University women’s volleyball team has been building toward the 2010 season. The 2009 campaign exemplified inconsistency, but this year’s squad has developed into one of the most consistent teams in the GLIAC.

In a season where the No. 15 Lakers (21-5, 17-2 GLIAC) saw a slow start turn into one of the longest winning streaks in school history, this weekend’s GLIAC tournament – the next step for GVSU – will be welcomed with open arms.

“This year, we’re much more consistent and do not have to rely on any one person in order for us to win,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon, whose team has finished first in the GLIAC North Division in six of the past seven seasons. “All the great teams at Grand Valley have been led by their seniors, and this year the expectations will not be any different headed into post-season.”

Expectations have fueled the team throughout the season. The Lakers opened the season by participating in the Tampa Classic in Tampa, Fla., on Sept. 3-5. The trip was an opportunity for the team to battle with top-tier teams in a tournament-like setting. A 1-3 record in the Classic was not a desirable start to the season, but in hindsight the team viewed the experience as beneficial to its success.

“I would much have rather lost to three top-10 teams than have three W’s to some not-so-good teams,” said senior middle hitter Rebeccah Rapin. “We have seen and played against the best teams in the country. We hung with them in the beginning of the season, and we have only gotten better and stronger throughout the season.”

The Lakers, who have a mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen in their normal in-game rotations, will look for contributions from freshmen Stacey Catalano and Sacha Gill throughout the tournament.

“I don’t lose a moment of sleep worrying about Stacey and Sacha and if they will be ready to play,” Scanlon said. “They both are mature beyond their years and have added the stability to our line up that we were missing last year. Both are motivated internally and play their best when the pressure is on.”

Winners of 15 straight matches, GVSU is one of the hottest teams in the country entering the tournament. GLIAC South Division winner and No. 1 seed Hillsdale College has won 24 straight matches, but GVSU’s current streak has lifted the Lakers to the top of the North Division and given the team the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

“We have focused all year not so much on wins and losses but just working to get better with every practice,” Scanlon said. “We are excited about the arrival of the postseason; it has been a long year and now the real fun begins.”

With the highs and lows of the regular season in the rearview mirror, the team’s attention shifts to the task at hand – winning the GLIAC Championship. A matchup with defending tournament champion Hillsdale in the final match is possible, and with two rounds to play before then GVSU’s determination will be hard to break.

“We’re really comfortable with each other out on the court, and everyone is willing to make sacrifices to attain our goals as well,” said senior setter Meghan Scanlon. “It really has been the team working towards a common purpose. The other day in the locker room, we laid out that we want to win a National Championship and what it was going to take to do that.”

That championship journey will begin tonight at 7 as the Lakers take on Northwood University at the Fieldhouse Arena in the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinals.

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