Seniors return to lead men’s club volleyball team

Courtesy / Mens Club Volleyball

Courtesy / Men’s Club Volleyball

Tate Baker

After a disappointing finish in the national tournament in which the Grand Valley State University men’s club volleyball team finished 41st, three graduated athletes were faced with a decision of whether or not to return for a final season.

“We weren’t too satisfied with how we finished the season at nationals last year,” junior libero Brian Gold said. “It was a decision all of them had to make, and I don’t think any of them have any regrets.”

With their 2013 club filled with an unprecedented amount of underclassmen (15 freshman and seven sophomores), the Lakers were more than happy when seniors Kyle Wright, Luke Lettinga and Matthew VanderMeer decided to return.

“Having them back is going to do anumber of great things for our team,” Gold said. “This year, we are really young and not too many players have experience, so having those guys come back will really help the younger guys find their way.”

After winning back-to-back GMMVC titles in 2010 and 2011, the Lakers are aiming to regain their spot atop the conference.

Another GMMVC title would give head coach Todd Allen his third conference championship since he began his career with the Lakers in 2009.

“We have the talent to be just as successful as seasons in the past,” assistant coach Kevin Becker said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it all comes together this year. We have a lot of new faces and also some returning veterans, so hopefully we can come together to meet the expectations that we have set for ourselves.”

The Lakers had a strong fall season after finishing fourth in a field of 28 teams at the Michigan State University Back to the Hardwood Classic.

GVSU was able to defeat the University of Iowa (19-25, 25-19, 15-6) and Northwestern University (22-25,25-21, 15-12) before falling to the University of Cincinnati (25-22, 25-14) in the semi-finals.

“We were really happy with how we competed at (Michigan State),” club vice-president Mike Marciniak said. “We showed somewhat of a glimpse of our potential, (and) hopefully it continues throughout the season.”

The focus for the Lakers will now shift to conference play, where they will play in several tournaments with the intention of improving from last year’s stretch of 10-10.

“Our schedule in the winter has us playing top-level talent at almost every tournament, which puts us in good shape come nationals,” Marciniak said. “One thing that’s key is to keep our focus and really bring our best game to each and every tournament.”

Several position changes have been made to the three lineups the Lakers will field this winter. The changes are meant to implement GVSU’s roster, which features four 6-foot-6 athletes, in the most advantageous way.

“So far, our lineup changes have really worked out for us,” Gold said. “Several guys are playing positions that they haven’t before, so of course there’s an adjustment period, but it should work out for us as the season goes on.”

GVSU will be back in action on Saturday when it heads to Adrian College for its first tournament of the winter season.