*PRINT ONLY* Volleyball recap

Headline: Bulldogs bite again

Subhead: Lakers lose five-set classic to rivals in Big Rapids

By Jay Bushen

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A disappointed Christina Canepa stood in the brisk, bleak air outside the Ewigleben Sports Arena on Tuesday night before boarding the bus bound back to Allendale.

Her demeanor was understandable. Moments before, Canepa turned in an impressive defensive performance in a heated, hostile environment. She was all over the court, often diving to the floor to extend plays. Every time she went down, she got up. But her team fell short in the final moments.

Canepa recorded a season-high 31 digs for the No. 14 Grand Valley State University volleyball team in the match, but it wasn’t enough as GVSU dropped a defensive duel to No. 22 Ferris State University (25-20, 21-25, 25-18, 19-25, 15-17) in Big Rapids, Mich.

“Right now it’s just disappointment,” said Canepa, a senior libero. “We showed character at some points and then other points showed where we need to improve. Once we get out of conference we’re going to have more matches like that, so we just have to expect it and be able to learn from this and see that we have to keep battling.”

Ferris State (16-5, 13-1 GLIAC) moves into a tie for first place with the win, while the Lakers (17-4, 13-1) are left with their first loss in 27 regular season conference matches.

The contest proved to be another chapter in the ongoing saga between the rivals.

In 2013, GVSU also fell in a five-set thriller at Ferris State. The Lakers proceeded to sweep their rival at home, but ended their season with a crushing five-set loss to Ferris State in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament championship match.

This season, GVSU dispatched then-No.14 Ferris State on Sept. 23 at home in four sets to set up Tuesday’s marathon match, where emotions seemed to run high from start to finish.

“We’re all disappointed,” said GVSU coach Deanne Scanlon. “We did some great things here tonight, but when it comes right down to it we just needed to make two or three plays when the pressure was on and it’s reminiscent of what happened last year in the regional championship. It’s disappointing to see that.”

The highly contested test of wills became more heated as the night went on. Fans crammed into the arena, refs issued warnings and fans voiced their issues with Laker-friendly calls. In addition, 10 of the 24 tie scores and five of the 14 lead changes came in the fifth set.

The teams were tied at 14 apiece in the decisive frame, but three attack errors from GVSU’s outside hitters supplied the Bulldogs with each of their last three points.

“I’m really just disappointed that they didn’t embrace the moment,” Scanlon said. “I felt like we just played tentative at the end. I don’t have a problem when we do something aggressive, but when the sets are going 40 feet in the air, it doesn’t give your hitters much of a chance, and then when your hitters make errors on those swings that’s not acceptable because Ferris wasn’t making those errors.

“That’s what made the difference. Ferris made their errors early on and we continued to make errors through that last set.”

Ferris State senior outside hitter Courtney Rehm posted a game-high 20 kills in the match, while GVSU’s Betsy Ronda led an evenly distributed attack for the Lakers with 15 kills.

Points didn’t come easily in the defensive classic. The Lakers notched 120 digs in the contest, the most by a GVSU team in nine seasons, compared to Ferris State’s 107. Hitters were challenged on both sides of the net, although GVSU held a slim edge in hitting percentage (.077 to .073), kills (58-50) and assists (47-46).

“We’re such an experienced group that we should be able to come back,” said senior Abby Aiken, one of three Lakers to turn in a double-double with 20 digs and 12 kills. “We just need to keep believing in ourselves. Everyone believed in each other out there so that’s a plus, now it’s just being able to execute and having confidence in ourselves.”

The Lakers, like their senior libero, might have to pick themselves up – but they still have four games left to earn at least a share of the regular season GLIAC crown.

The team will have a chance to start its championship campaign with a pair of road matches at Northwood University on Friday and Lake Superior State University on Saturday.