GV takes one, drops three in opening weekend

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Katie Olson (9) sets the ball. Grand Valley squares off against Ohio Dominican and claims the victory with a final score of 3-1.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Katie Olson (9) sets the ball. Grand Valley squares off against Ohio Dominican and claims the victory with a final score of 3-1.

Brady McAtamney

Not too often will a coach be pleased with their team starting a season with one win and three losses.

For the Grand Valley State volleyball team, it happened.

The Lakers opened up their slate of games winning only the first of four matches Sept. 2-3. The win came as a sweep against Minnesota Crookston, then losses followed versus No. 10 Minnesota Duluth in four sets, No. 21 Winona State in four sets, and No. 20 California State San Bernardino in five sets.

Standing out were junior Katie Olson who accumulated 115 assists over the weekend (which makes up 76 percent of the teams total number), 39 digs, and five aces. Freshman Kendall Yerkes had team highs with 56 digs and 134 attacks along with 41 kills. Freshman Jayci Suseland had 118 attacks, 32 kills and 5 blocks (zero solo).

Also leaving marks on the matches were sophomore Shannon Winicki with 89 attacks, 25 kills, and five blocks (zero solo) and sophomore Staci Brower, who finished the weekend holding 94 attacks, 27 kills and a team high 20 blocks (13 solo).

Despite the record, coach Deanne Scanlon is impressed with her team. She believes her team got better every match during what was “no doubt their toughest opening weekend yet.”

“The growth from our first match Friday morning against Crookston and the last match against San Bernardino, I felt we really grew as a team. They got in a good rotation and scored points. I’d rather have more wins, but with a young team it’s kind of a process,” Scanlon said.

Blocking is a key part of the team’s game, as the Lakers feature eight players that stand at least six feet tall. Though this aspect of their game was inconsistent at times, the Lakers managed to tally up a total of 27 blocks as a team.

Another strength that fueled the vaunted blocking line was team communication.

“I think that we did really well with talking, so the back row would be telling the hitters where to go,” Suseland said. “We performed and had pretty good defense, too. Our blockers did a really nice job. There were times where people had solo blocks and we just lined up really well and it was hard to hit around them.”

However, the team still has room to grow in this department.

“We definitely can get better on our serve receive and serving,” Olson said. “There were times where we lost communication and our back line just needs to play together more. It should be an easy fix.”

As told by Scanlon, volleyball is a team sport and good communication is vital if a team is going to have any success. While the mental aspect of the team is developing, they already have the physical aspect covered.

“I think physically, we’re maybe better than the teams we played as far as potential talent,” Scanlon said. “I think we have a bigger upside. But right now, it’s just that lack of experience from playing together and consistency which comes with experience too. I think all the pieces are there, it’s just that we have to mature.”

Along with finding the consistency and vocal groove, the Lakers also need a leader to emerge. They have yet to find that one player that can take charge and act as a coach on the floor and rally their teammates.

“There’s room for improvement,” Suseland. “It’s our first competition and everyone is getting used to playing with each other. After the second day, for sure, we gelled with each other and it was just getting there.”

Next up, GVSU travels to Pennsylvania to play another four game weekend at the Vulcan Invitational and will challenge Adelphi, Davis & Elkins, California (PA) and Winston-Salem State Sept. 9-10.