GVSU volleyball splits with Wayne State, Findlay

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Kendall Yerkes (2) jumps and sends the ball over the net. The Lakers fall to the Bulldogs of Ferris State with a final score of 1-3 Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Kendall Yerkes (2) jumps and sends the ball over the net. The Lakers fall to the Bulldogs of Ferris State with a final score of 1-3 Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016 in Allendale.

Brady McAtamney

The Grand Valley State volleyball team split a weekend series with the Wayne State Warriors and Findlay Oilers.

The Lakers beat the first-place Warriors in Detroit Friday, Oct. 21 by a score of 3-0 to knock the Warriors to 17-5 (8-2 GLIAC), and then fell to the second-place Oilers 3-1 in Findlay the next day, Saturday, Oct. 22, bumping them up to 16-6 (9-2 GLIAC). The Lakers now sit at 12-9 (6-4 GLIAC).

After a week of working on defensive play, the Lakers stifled the top-seeded Warriors in their own gym, beating them in straight sets 25-16, 25-20 and again 25-16. GVSU picked up 13 more kills, five more blocks, 13 more assists and four more digs than Wayne State over the course of the match.

Offensively for the Lakers, freshman Jayci Suseland led the way with 19 kills and two blocks. The next two highest in the category were sophomores Jillian Butsavich and Staci Brower with five kills each while Brower blocked three balls. Junior Katie Olson tallied 22 assists and 12 digs while freshman Kendall Yerkes and sophomores Taylor Stewart and Brooke Smith also played significant roles in the offensive game.

“We played very aggressively and very loose at the same time,” said GVSU coach Deanne Scanlon. “Our blocking was outstanding, which got Wayne State out of their offense. We put together a very nice match. That’s tough to do when you’re on the road. I thought we served and passed better than Wayne State and it made us comfortable doing what we needed to do.”

For a young and talented team like the Lakers, Scanlon has noted that they would experience peaks and valleys throughout the season, and it’s safe to say that the win over the conference leader in Detroit can certainly be classified as a peak.

“Coming in as underdogs, we just came in and knew we had to get that done and we played really well together,” said freshman Sydney Benchley. “It was a great feeling.”

With confidence from the win transferring into the next afternoon against the Findlay Oilers, the Lakers were unable to get off to a strong start and eventually dropped the match in four sets by scores of 18-25, 25-21, 19-25 and 16-25. GVSU was outnumbered in nearly every significant statistic, falling short of Findlay in kills by 13, blocks by 10 and assists by 11. The Lakers managed to hit only .180 for the game while Findlay’s efficiency garnered them a number of .312.

Brower paced the Lakers with 10 kills, followed by Suseland with nine. Smith, Yerkes and junior Sydney Doby had six each and Jillian Butsavich had five. Benchley and Yerkes each dug double digit balls, with 16 and 10 respectively while Stewart and Olson set up their hitters with 22 and 18 assists each.

“We knew with Findlay coming off a 3-0 loss to Ferris, we weren’t going to catch them off guard,” Scanlon said. “They were going to be really focused in on us. I think our focus was there and we got down early in all the sets, and we had to battle back. We had one block the entire match, so that was very disappointing. Their hitters were consistently hitting the same ball and we just were unable to stop them.”

Despite the tough loss to a team that sits above them in the standings, the Lakers are not hanging their heads and dwelling on the weekend.

“I would say it was a little bit more of a success than a letdown because we proved that we can beat those better teams and we played very well today,” Brower said. “That should help us realize that we need to just stay loose and play volleyball and we can win.”

With a crucial weekend of conference action ahead, including a match with a team that the Lakers currently sit in a tie with, Scanlon knows exactly what practices will look like for her team in order to prepare to walk away with wins.

“We worked a lot of defense this week in practice and I thought that got better, but every time we struggle, it comes down to our serving and passing,” Scanlon said. “We have the offensive threats to put balls away, but when we’re not doing those things we go into a panic mode and we’re not mature enough to fight through that yet.”

The pivotal weekend begins Friday, Oct. 28 when the 13-11 (4-6 GLIAC) Northern Michigan Panthers come to Allendale for a 7 p.m. match followed by a bout between deadlocked foes as the Michigan Tech Huskies (11-12, 6-4 GLIAC) square off with the Lakers at Fieldhouse Arena Saturday, Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.