GVSU tops Ashland to advance to GLIAC semifinals

GVL / Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye

Alex Eisen

The Grand Valley State volleyball team needed a monumental conference playoff win to ensure a shot at another match in 2015. They rose to the occasion.

The fourth-seeded Lakers (20-10) used a balanced attack and blocking to defeat fifth-seeded Ashland (19-11) in four sets by scores of 25-22, 25-17, 15-25, 25-21 in the first round of the GLIAC tournament.

Four Lakers finished with five or more kills, while the defense held strong at the net, putting up 17 total blocks with a season-high nine solo blocks.

The all-around solid outing was exactly what head coach Deanne Scanlon has been looking for all season long.

“This is definitely our best win of the season, under pressure and it was a must-win,” Scanlon said. “Our block kind of set the pace and we had moments offensively where we were doing some good things.

“To win set one was huge. Absolutely huge. We didn’t play well in set one.”

Ashland jumped out to an 8-3 lead to open the match before GVSU answered back with kills coming all across the court from a number of players to close the gap to 11-9.

Ashland pushed its lead back out to 15-10. Again, the Lakers fought back to get it 16-14, but two consecutive points by the Eagles forced Scanlon to call a timeout down 18-14.

Ashland needed to call the next timeout at 21-19 after GVSU collect three straight points from two Eagles’ errors and a kill by senior Kourtney Wolters.

Then, once again, another Ashland timeout came at 21-23. GVSU finished off the first set on a 9-1 run to take it 25-22.

The second set felt similar to the first – the Eagles maintained a three-to-four-point cushion early in the set. But attacking errors, multiple blocks and a fortunate ricochet tied the set at 13-13.

Tied 15-15, the Lakers went on another dominant wave. This time, a 10-2 run closed out the set, 25-17. GVSU’s defense put up five team blocks in back-to-back sets and held Ashland to a -.029 hitting percentage in the second frame.

The Lakers’ offense clicked as it spread the ball around the court. Senior Kaleigh Lound finished with a team-high 11 kills. Sophomore setter Katie Olson excelled as the lone setter, putting up 32 assists, a team-high 18 digs and three kills.

“When I’m going up to set, I’m looking on the other side of the court to see where (Ashland’s) blockers are so I can give my teammates one-on-ones,” Olson said. “They were biting with a lot of our middles so we had a lot of one-on-ones by the pins.”

As if it was a formula for success, GVSU went down early again in the third set, 10-5.

Right on cue, the Lakers pulled the deficit back once again, 12-11. But the Eagles weren’t going to suffer a third late-set collapse. Slowing down the Lakers to a .000 hitting percentage, Ashland finished the set on a 13-4 run to get back into the match, 25-15.

Both teams traded points in the fourth set until GVSU seized control with six straight points to make it 14-8. With GVSU leading 16-12, Shomin made a one-handed diving dig.

“Those are the balls that you can’t really practice,” Shomin said. “It’s just all about reaction and almost luck at that point. It’s a really great feeling, especially when it’s at a tough time or when you need it the most.”

Shomin then showed her athleticism again with a full-stretch dig that led to a Jess Majerle kill to make it 21-16. A rare Olson full-swing kill, a block by Lound, an Ashland player running into the net and a Majerle kill were the Lakers final four points to seal the victory, 3-1.

Scanlon collected her 546th career win in the victory, moving past former head coach Joan Boand for the most wins by a coach in program history.

The Lakers now advance to face No. 3 Ferris State (29-2) in the semifinals of the conference tournament. The match will be played at FSU on Saturday at 3 p.m.

GVSU lost both of its matches against FSU this season via a four-set loss on Sept. 29 in Big Rapids, Michigan and, more recently on Nov. 3, a five-set comeback victory by the Bulldogs at Fieldhouse Arena.