GVSU goes 3-1 in opening tournament

GVL / Emily Frye
Junior Betsy Ronda #6

GVL/Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Junior Betsy Ronda #6

Alex Eisen

After losing the home opener to Concordia-Portland in four sets (21-25, 25-13, 21-25, 17-25), the Grand Valley State volleyball team bounced back emphatically to win its next three matches in straight sets at the 2015 GVSU Laker Riverfront Classic.

All but three GVSU players saw playing time as head coach Deanne Scanlon used the season opening tournament to evaluate her roster. Every action was accounted for with starting roster spots still to be decided.

“Sometimes it’s just a little moment, or one play, that you need from somebody and that’s what you’re looking for,” Scanlon said. “Someone that has been on that bench the whole game and you call their name and want them to come in and take a big swing, pass or make a serve.”

Making plays and catching the attention of Scanlon were freshmen Staci Brower and Brooke Smith.

Brower and Kaleigh Lound, 2014 All-GLIAC Honorable Mention, anchored the Lakers’ attack as they averaged over 2.75 kills a set for the tournament. At times they looked unstoppable, with freshman setter Taylor Stewart doing her best to replace the graduated 2014 GLIAC Player of the Year Kaitlyn Wolters.

“Well, sometimes you can tell right out of the setter’s hands that you just know it’s going to be a good one,” Brower said. “So, you just swing as hard as you can and hope it goes down.”

Brower finished with a team-best in kills (40), kills in a single game (15) and hitting percentage (.366), among those with at least five kills, and received high praise from Scanlon after she spiked down GVSU’s final three points of the weekend in a win against Lock Haven (25-13, 25-16, 25-22).

“That kind of physicality, you didn’t see a player like that all weekend here,” Scanlon said. “You are going to be hearing her name a lot over the next four years.”

Smith, an outside hitter, added 27 kills and 33 digs through the four games and tied Brower’s game-high of 15 kills in the victory over Bemidji State (25-20, 25-14, 25-17).

Needing to the replace the 2014 Libero of the Year, Christina Canepa, senior Taylor Shomin looked in control of the backline with 20 or more digs in three of the four games.

Betsy Ronda and Sydney Doby saw limited action while nursing and recovering from preseason injuries, as Scanlon used caution and eased them back into the action slowly.

Ronda picked up her 1,000th kill of her career in the third set against Concordia-Portland, but was unable to shift the momentum in the opening game defeat. Doby played in two sets during that game as well, but didn’t dress for Saturday’s games.

However, Scanlon isn’t worried.

“Everybody is fine,” she said. “We expect everyone to be full go next week.”

The Lakers travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to play four more games next weekend as part of the Augustana Showcase. On Friday will they play Northern State at 1 p.m. and Minnesota State Moorhead at 7 p.m. Saturday, GVSU will take on Minnesota Crookston at 11 a.m. and host Augustana at 5 p.m.