GVSU seniors ready for one final go-round

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
2014 Volleyball Seniors

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff 2014 Volleyball Seniors

Jay Bushen

Six members of the Grand Valley State volleyball team stood before family and friends inside Fieldhouse Arena on Saturday for a pre-match ceremony to honor the seniors on Senior Day.

Wayne State players waited patiently on their bench downcourt as announcer Chris Nicholas read through a script of GVSU accolades — a rundown of noteworthy statistics, career accomplishments and milestones — while home fans cheered appropriately.

Midway through the presentation, the Wayne State players got up and moved to the nearest side court. No disrespect was intended or taken as a result of the temporary departure; the Warriors were simply trying to stay loose for the match. It was a long presentation.

And deservedly so.

“As coaches, we always get another opportunity to have another team, another season, another group of kids,” Scanlon said of her senior class. “So when you have a special group like this come through, you want them to be able to realize all their dreams and everything that they’ve worked for.

“That’s where we’re at with this group. I really feel like they’ve trusted a lot, believed in what we’ve been trying to do and worked through injuries — it just seems like it’s one thing after another with this group. Sometimes you struggle through adversity, but now this group is mature enough to where nothing really bothers them.”

Four of the six members; outside hitter Abby Aiken, libero Christina Canepa, setter Clair Ruhenkamp and middle blocker Ally Simmons; contributed heavily on the 2012 team, which finished 15-14.

The Lakers have come a long way since.

Over the next three seasons, the Lakers have gone 77-16, won a pair of regular season GLIAC crowns and a GLIAC Tournament title. It wasn’t easy, but the foursome found a way.

“It’s amazing we’ve been through so much,” Canepa said. “It’s crazy that it’s almost over but we all have each other.”

Individual milestones have been a byproduct of their dedication. Canepa, for example, owns the second-most digs in GVSU history. Ruhenkamp ranks ninth in career assists. Aiken has the ninth-most career kills.

Much of their success has to do with chemistry; there’s almost a family dynamic among them. Simmons compared them to a group of “sisters.”

Their bond was further strengthened by a pair of twin sisters, Kaitlyn and Kourtney Wolters, who won a NJCAA Division II National Championship at Grand Rapids Community College in 2012.

Kaitlyn transferred to GVSU in 2013 as a junior, and quickly amassed the eighth-most assists in Laker history. Kourtney followed suit, joining this season, and has fit right in.

“All six of us bring something to the court that no one else has,” Kourtney said. “I think that’s why we flow really well this year.”

The seniors embarked on their last postseason quest at home in the first round of the 2014 GLIAC Tournament against Ohio Dominican on Wednesday, and finished the match with an all too familiar result: a sweep (25-15, 25-11, 25-18).

It was the 51st time the GVSU seniors have swept an opponent.

“We’re excited, we think that we can take conference and regionals,” Aiken said. “But it’s just about taking it one game at a time and having confidence in each other. I think we have that now. We have a swagger back on the court. Not to be cocky, but we have faith in each other now.”

If they win the GLIAC Tournament this weekend at Fieldhouse Arena, GVSU will have won the outright GLIAC title in back-to-back seasons.

For the seniors, it would just be another achievement added to the list.