No. 23 GVSU volleyball goes 2-1 at GLVC crossover

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Betsy Rhonda (6) and Staci Brower (21) block an incoming spike. Grand Valley sweeps Tiffin Oct. 3 after three sets inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Betsy Rhonda (6) and Staci Brower (21) block an incoming spike. Grand Valley sweeps Tiffin Oct. 3 after three sets inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale.

Alex Eisen

Seeking a marquee win to put on its resume, the No. 23 Grand Valley State volleyball team traveled to Aurora, Illinois for the eighth annual Midwest Region Crossover to challenge three quality Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) opponents.

GVSU (13-7, 7-2 GLIAC) split a pair of five-set marathon matches on Friday before ending the crossover tournament with a winning record by beating Missouri S&T (15-8, 6-3 GLVC) in four sets (25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 25-12) on Saturday.

The Lakers’ only loss of the event came against No. 19 Lewis (21-1, 9-0 GLVC), despite a strong outing from senior Kaleigh Lound, who tied a season-high in kills (16) with a .500 hitting percentage in the five-set match.

“I was just really emotionally invested in the game and wanted to win, so I tried to step up and take that role,” Lound said. “We fought hard to even get it to five sets. (Lewis) is really good team.”

The defeat started off eerily similar to the Lakers’ loss against Ashland on Oct. 10. GVSU dropped a close first set, regrouped, and handily took the second, before conceding the crucial middle stanza.

Down 15-10 in a must-win fourth set, sophomore Sydney Doby entered the match for the first time to give freshman Staci Brower (5 kills, .043 hitting percentage) a breather, as Brower struggled to get into her usual rhythm.

Doby-for-Brower was one of several roster adjustments GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon made throughout the weekend to shift momentum.

“I just feel really comfortable now with the kids we do have to bring in off the bench,” Scanlon said. “They can contribute. They’re understanding how to stay engaged in the match so when we do call on them they can come in and help us through a tough time, because that’s usually when you make those switches.”

Trailing 17-11 when Doby stepped up to serve, the Lakers answered back with seven consecutive points to recapture the lead late in the set. Redshirt freshman Shannon Winicki eventually finished the frame with one of her nine kills to complete the comeback and force a fifth set.

GVSU held a 10-8 lead in the deciding set, before Lewis closed out the match by taking seven of the last eight points. An opportunity to pick up a quality win against a nationally ranked opponent had slipped away.

“That’s just the kind of team (Lewis) is. They hang around and grind things out,” Scanlon said.

There was no time to dwell on the past, as GVSU’s second match of the tournament against Indianapolis (9-13, 5-4 GLVC) later in the evening also went the distance. This time, however, the Lakers secured their first five-set victory of the season (15-25, 25-16, 25-23, 21-25, 16-14.)

“(Five-set matches) are emotionally draining because you’re so tired at the end,” said senior Jessica Majerle. “It was back and forth, battling, so it was pretty intense.”

Majerle led the offense, putting down a career-high 17 kills (.302 hitting percentage). Freshmen Brooke Smith and Brower each added 10 kills, while Lound and Winicki both had nine.

Smith, another one of Scanlon’s situational changes, also contributed two aces, as she got more playing time with senior Betsy Ronda sidelined.

Indianapolis took the first three points to start the fifth set. GVSU fought back to tie it up at three different stages, before edging away to a slim 13-11 lead.

A pair of Greyhound kills brought it to 13-13. A solo block by Majerle gave GVSU match point, but a service error from libero Taylor Shomin tied it back up, 14-14.

A Majerle kill and a combined block from Winicki and Brower gave the Lakers the final two points of the match. Scanlon was satisfied to come out on top and praised the opposition.

“Indy, I think, is one of the rising teams in the GLVC,” Scanlon said. “I think they are going to have a really good second half of the season. They are very young and a lot like us.”

Brower and Ronda redeemed themselves in the final match of the tournament against Missouri S&T, each knocking down double-digit kills in the victory. Brower also recorded four blocks to go with her 12 kills, while Ronda had a double-double (11 kills and 12 digs).

Sophomore setter Katie Olson added 30 assists and 13 digs.

In a rematch of the first round of the Midwest Regional in 2014 when GVSU swept the Miners, the Lakers nearly put up another 3-0 final score Saturday.

A second frame collapse was quickly forgotten, as GVSU hit a combined .342 with only three attacking errors in sets three and four to seal the win.

Freshman Kaylene Norris rotated in during critical moments for her serving ability, and delivered a season-high five aces. GVSU collected 12 aces, its most since Sept. 6, 2009 in a 3-0 win over East Stroudsburg (14).

GVSU returns to Fieldhouse Arena next weekend to resume conference play, hosting Hillsdale (15-4, 7-2 GLIAC) on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. and Findlay (15-5, 8-1 GLIAC) on Oct. 24 at 4 p.m.