Volleyball to see familiar foes in NCAA Regional tourney

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
The Laker volleyball team touches hands before the match

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter The Laker volleyball team touches hands before the match

Curtis Kalleward

This weekend, look out for dejà vu on the volleyball court. Familiar foes and conference rivals highlight Grand Valley State University’s run in the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament hosted by Hillsdale College.

The Lakers enter the eight-team bracket as the No. 2 seed and will face Northern Kentucky University Friday afternoon. GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon said the high seeding is nice but guarantees nothing.

“They’re all good teams once you get to this point,” she said. “The higher seed means hopefully the odds will play out and the top seeds will win, but you have to treat everyone as equal. I don’t look at it as giving us an advantage.”

The Lakers defeated Northern Kentucky 3-0 at the GLIACGLVC Crossover Tournament earlier this season and are 3-0 all-time against the Norse in the NCAA Tournament, but Northern Kentucky is not the only familiar team GVSU could see this weekend.

GLIAC semifinalist Northern Michigan University, a team the Lakers topped to reach the final match, is the No. 5 seed, while host team Hillsdale sits in first. Hillsdale defeated GVSU last weekend to win the GLIAC Conference title.

“We want revenge against Hillsdale,” said senior Rebeccah Rapin. “We’re hoping it’s us versus them in the finals again. Last time we played them, we were nervous. We made a lot of errors, and we don’t normally do that. Our offense struggled, and that’s not something we usually struggle with. Usually, it’s our defense that’s not always there.”

While the GVSU players feel they have unfinished business against the Chargers, the fact that they have reached this point is an accomplishment in its own right.

“At the beginning of the year, nobody really believed in us,” said senior Krysta Kornack. “People thought we were going to struggle, and we pretty much showed them that we’re better than we thought.”

To meet Hillsdale for the third time this season, GVSU first needs to get past Northern Kentucky, a team that makes its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Norse won the regional tournament twice in 1998 and 1999. However, GVSU holds a strong edge against Northern Kentucky, owning a 21-4 advantage all-time, including a current five-game winning streak.

NKU has a lot of quickness,” Rapin said. “They’re not like any team we ever see normally. We were lucky to play them in the crossover tournament, but they’re a whole different game. A lot of teams from the GLVC tend to be small but very quick and scrappy. They run a very fast-paced game, and we need to just play our style.”

If GVSU succeeds against both the Norse and their semifinal opponent, they could see either Hillsdale or Northern Michigan in the final. But no matter the opponent, Kornack said they will have to stay focused at all times.

Scanlon said GVSU will have short, light practices this week to keep the team’s health in good condition. Freshman libero Sacha Gill, who has played a major role this season, suffers from a small illness, but Scanlon said Gill should be fine to play this weekend when everyone will need to push toward victory.

“When you’re playing in a regional, you have to play three solid days together,” Scanlon said. “It’s hard to put three solid days of total execution at the top of your game together. Our kids have got to find a way to win, and we feel we can win in a lot of ways.”

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