GVSU moves on to face Wayne St. in semifinal action on Saturday

GVL / Eric Coulter
Clair Ruhenkamp sets up the ball for Eno Umoh

GVL / Eric Coulter Clair Ruhenkamp sets up the ball for Eno Umoh

Zach Sepanik

At this time last year, the Grand Valley State University volleyball team’s season was over; this year, not so much.

The Lakers (24-6 overall) looked revitalized and played with a sense of purpose in their GLIAC conference tournament quarterfinal match against Hillsdale College on Wednesday, just four days after defeating the Chargers 3-1 in Fieldhouse Arena.

This time around, the Lakers swept the Chargers to advance to the tournament semifinals. It was the 15th straight-set victory for GVSU this season and marked the first time they defeated Hillsdale twice in one season since 2007.

“We told them that we have to forget about Saturday, beating them the way that we did, because they are coming in as a desperate team,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “I was a little worried having to play them back-to-back, but I thought our kids put together another really good game against them all the way around.”

Hillsdale, down 9-6 in the first set, scored the next five points before Scanlon had seen enough. Calling a timeout to settle her team down, the Lakers responded with a monstrous kill from sophomore outside hitter Abby Aiken and jumped out to a 15-14 lead.

Back and forth the rest of the way, the Lakers held a 24-23 advantage when it seemed that senior middle blocker Eno Umoh palmed the ball before sending it over the net. A quick whistle from the head referee, Trent Smillie, paused action, but hesitant in his call, a re-serve was decided on. With a high-flying kill, Umoh put away the next point and the set, 25-23.

The Lakers faced an early 3-0 hole in set two before scoring six of the next seven points. They eventually built a commanding 19-13 lead, forcing Hillsdale head coach Chris Gravel to use one of his timeouts to hopefully stop the bleeding. It wasn’t enough, though, as GVSU would go on to win 25-15.

With the momentum on their side, GVSU looked to make quick work of the Chargers in set three. However, the set was close throughout and tied at 14, 18 and again at 20. Then, junior right side hitter Megan Schroeder came up with one of her team-high 11 kills to put GVSU ahead where they would stay, closing out the set 25-21.

“We wanted to show them who the better team was by beating them twice,” said sophomore libero Christina Canepa, who had a team-high 16 digs in the win. “We knew what they were going to do and how their servers were, so I think we were prepared.”

In the match, Umoh contributed eight total blocks to move up to third on the GVSU all-time total blocks list with 493. Also, as a team GVSU served up seven aces and committed only one service error.

“Last year we weren’t in this boat, being on a roll and everything, so we are really excited,” said Aiken, who chipped in with 10 kills and four block assists, hitting at a .368 mark. “Knowing we have a chance to go to the elite eight and win regionals, it’s cool.”

In other quarterfinal action, Wayne State University defeated Ferris State University in five sets. The Warriors and Lakers will meet in the second semifinal contest on Saturday at Northwood University, who defeated the University of Findlay in four sets. As the No. 1 and highest remaining seed left in the tournament, Northwood will host the semifinals and finals.
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