Lakers seek Golden start in Colorado

12 Abby Aiken

12 Abby Aiken

Tate Baker

After a 2-2 start last season, the Grand Valley State University volleyball team got back on the right track by upsetting a pair of ranked opponents en route to a 4-0 record at the Oredigger Classic in Golden, Colo.

The No. 14 Lakers will hope to duplicate that result in the event once again this weekend, as they take on four quality teams – including another top-25 opponent in No. 20 Wayne State University (Neb.) on Friday.

“We are going to have the same approach to the beginning of the season as we did last year, which is taking advantage of the opportunity to see early competition,” said senior outside hitter Abby Aiken. “We have an experienced group, so starting off the season against formidable competition doesn’t worry us. Instead, we embrace it.”

Last year, the 4-0 tournament seemed to jolt the Lakers into what translated into an impressive season. GVSU finished 31-4 and captured the GLIAC title outright.

Although capturing another GLIAC crown is a main point of emphasis for GVSU this fall, the Lakers plan on taking the season in stride without looking ahead.

“It’s good for our team to face a tough schedule right away, it sets the tone for us going forward,” coach Deanne Scanlon said. “Our girls’ expectations are to come out of this weekend without a loss, but there’s more to it than that. It comes down to our focus and execution and how we come to play as a team.”

A clearer picture of GVSU’s rotation and bench depth will be something to keep an eye on this weekend, as position battles loom with the additions of freshmen Katie Olsen, Shannon Winicki, Sydney Doby and a transfer who won a national championship with Grand Rapids Community College in 2012, senior Kourtney Wolters.

With plenty of young talent to complement an experienced roster – which includes three All-Americans in Aiken, junior middle blocker Kaleigh Lound and senior setter Kaitlyn Wolters – it seems GVSU is capable of putting together an undefeated weekend.

“We have great potential for this team,” Lound said. “Everyone has to be ready to step up when their name is called.”

While the Oredigger Classic could serve as a measuring stick for GVSU moving forward, the Laker players and coaches are looking at the tournament as a chance to bond and develop their 2014 chemistry as one cohesive unit.

“Not only does this weekend offer us a great chance to play against good competition, but it also offers us a chance to become closer as a team,” Scanlon said. “In the long run, that often proves to make a big difference in times of adversity down the road.”

GVSU will first play Minnesota State University Moorhead on Friday at 1 p.m., followed by its showdown with Wayne State (Neb.) at 7 p.m. Then, the Lakers will conclude the road trip on Saturday with games against Dominican University of California at noon and Augustana College at 4 p.m.