GVSU trends downward at weekend tournament

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#15 Kaleigh Lound

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #15 Kaleigh Lound

Alex Eisen

In a bout of déjà vu, the Grand Valley State volleyball team got off to another shaky start in a weekend tournament. The No. 8 Lakers were swept by Northern State (22-25, 20-25, 22-25) in its first of four matches played at the Augustana Showcase.

Unlike last week, however, when GVSU rebounded to win three consecutive matches in straight sets, its struggles in South Dakota would carry through the weekend. The Lakers (4-4) finished the tournament with a 1-3 record and will likely drop drastically or be removed altogether from the Division II AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll.

After falling to the unbeaten NSU squad Friday afternoon, GVSU was left stunned a few hours later in game two after a hard fought, five-set loss to Minnesota State Moorhead (25-22, 31-33, 21-25, 27-25, 14-16).

“It was very emotional,” said head coach Deanne Scanlon. “You put a lot in to not come out with a win. It took a lot out of them.”

GVSU had three chances to seal the victory, after going up 14-11 in the fifth set, but the Lakers let a win on the horizon slip through their fingers. GVSU managed to drop the second set against MSU Moorhead after six failed attempts on set point that would have given it a commanding 2-0 lead.

Four GVSU players recorded 10 or more kills in the high-scoring affair, with senior Kaleigh Lound (16 kills) recording the best hitting percentage of the group at .382, followed by Brooke Smith (14, .325), Staci Brower (season-best 18, .225) and Jessica Majerle (11, .205). Betsy Ronda finished with nine kills.

“We know we have multiple people on the court that can deliver a great game,” Lound said. “So, if our middles are being keyed in on, our outsides can give us support. It gives us multiple options.”

Saturday morning, GVSU got back to its winning ways by sweeping Minnesota Crookston (25-16, 25-22, 25-20).

Senior captain Kourtney Wolters did not play in the win to allow outside hitters Shannon Winicki and Majerle to get more opportunities after both had solid performances against MSU Moorhead with hitting percentages over .200. Wolters struggled in that game, committing four errors leading to a -.333 hitting percentage.

Still no permanent replacement has been found for Wolters’ twin, 2014 GLIAC Setter and Player of the Year Kaitlyn Wolters. Freshman Taylor Stewart and sophomore Katie Olson continue to split playing time at setter.

Stewart has more assists through eight games, 212 to 83, but Olson has more experience and had the opportunity to watch and learn from Kaitlyn last season.

“With Taylor and me switching it gives us a chance to see their tendencies on the other side of the court,” Olson said. “When we’re off we can talk to (our hitters) about the stuff they need and what we need. So, it works out pretty well.”

GVSU’s lone victory of the tournament was short-lived, as host Augustana shutdown the Lakers’ offense to a season-low .089 hitting percentage in the evening game (19-25, 25-22, 16-25, 23-25). GVSU fought until the end – and the game saw 10 ties and five lead changes in the fourth set – but Augustana held on to send the Lakers back to Allendale looking for answers.

Conference games begin next week as GVSU hosts Wayne State (3-5) on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m., and Saginaw Valley State (8-0) on Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. Since 2011, the Lakers have won 11 straight meetings between these two GLIAC opponents with the total number of sets won lopsided heavily in their favor, 33-5.