New Beginnings: After abrupt ending in 2017, GVSU Volleyball is ready to return

Grand Valley Volleyball preparing for set number 2 against Purdue Northwest on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.  GVL / Dylan McIntyre

Grand Valley Volleyball preparing for set number 2 against Purdue Northwest on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.  GVL / Dylan McIntyre

Payton Miloser

While the 2017 Grand Valley State volleyball team had an earlier exit than expected, the girls are back this year and ready more than ever to take back the court.

While the Lakers did bring home the GLIAC South Division Championship, they had a heart-wrenching loss to Wayne State in the GLIAC tournament last November, losing 2-3. The team not only lost the game, but also four seniors due to graduation. This opened up some new spots for freshmen to fill in making this year’s team very young.

“This year we have six freshmen and we’re working on integrating them into the team” said head coach Deanne Scanlon. “The team works hard on and off the court and we really try to emphasize our core values. The girls seem to really want to learn and have really positive attitudes.”

The new freshmen include: Brooke Binkley, Cameryn Brown, Emma Clines, Abby Graham, Fernanda Spengler and Alexandra Thompson.

“While we are young and that can have its ups and downs, we also have high energy and a new team chemistry to work with.” said senior Hannah Murdock. “They’re fresh people and they’re really excited to learn and play with us.”

The team also has been working extremely hard on the offseason to get in shape for the 2018 season. The girls have been conditioning in the gym since second semester of the 2017-18 school year and have worked on and off the court with drills and open gym sessions throughout the summer. 

“The NCAA has very strict rules about what we can and can’t do on the offseason so we really rely on the girls for workouts because it’s really important to stay in shape. It sets the tone for the season. The girls stay motivated and grind when no one is watching.” Scanlon said. 

Although a young team can come with some positives and some negatives, the Lakers have a strong set of returners both on offense and defense. 

In the front row the Lakers have returning senior Staci Brower who led the team in blocking and kills during the 2017 season. With a total of 306 kills and 72 blocks, she proves to be a strong offensive and defensive player up front this season.

“This upcoming season, we don’t really have one main key player.” Brower said. “We mostly have equal contributors all over the court which makes it hard to focus on one player and I think that will make us hard to defend against this year making us a hard team for our opponent.”

In the back row, the Lakers have junior Sydney Benchley and senior Kaylene Norris, who led the team’s defense during the 2017 season. Benchley was ranked first in digs with 341 and Norris was ranked third with 288. 

Over the 2018 season the Lakers hope to improve their passing and hitting percentages by bringing in more kills and more digs overall. They want to lead the conference both in wins and stats by pushing themselves hard and focusing on a game by game basis.

Volleyball is just as much of a mental game as it is a physical game. With some big goals to meet this season, it is very important that the Lakers keep their energy just as in check as their skills. 

“We have a lot of high intensity, high energy, and overall a good balance on the team with this stuff. When the energy drops a bit we have those people on the team that know to step up and take charge. We focus on the energy as much as the play.” Murdock said.

With the Franklin Pierce tournament and the Cavalier Classic tournament coming up and the opportunity to face Wayne State once again on Sept. 7, the Lakers are ready to take back their spot as the number one seed in the division.

“This season we really want to defeat Wayne because they’re ranked first seed and we’re second seed, so to beat them and then to win the GLIAC division championship are our main goals.”  Brower said.

GVSU travels to Rindge, New Hampshire for the Franklin Pierce Tournament this weekend. Their first game is against Wilmington on August 24 at 2 p.m.