GV Volleyball grows closer over pandemic, prepares for 2021 season


Courtesy / GVSU Volleyball

Kellen Voss, Print Associate Editor

After what has arguably the most non-traditional offseason in program history, the Grand Valley State volleyball team will kick off their 2021 season against all GLIAC opponents in February.

The squad returns a lot of talented student-athletes, including but not limited to reigning GLIAC Freshman of the Year Jaeli Primus, All-GLIAC second-team middle blocker Alli Thompson, and rising sophomores Emma Clines, Karlie Kucharczyk and Rachael Jacquay.

GVSU Volleyball coach Deanne Scanlon is not only geared up for this season to start, but she also thankful to see what has been a very stressful year for many come to an end in a few weeks.

“I’m totally excited,” Scanlon said. “As soon as 12:01 a.m. hits on Jan. 1, (2021), I’m probably going to be dancing in the streets because 2020 is over. I know it doesn’t mean (the pandemic) is over, but there’s excitement for the new year and our girls are so excited. They’re really focused, and they’ve been working on pushing through until finals, (so) they’re excited to work over break. We’ll do everything we can to stay healthy, and be ready to play, we just hope things that are out of our control turn in our favor.”

While the back-to-back GLIAC schedule may take some getting used to for the basketball teams, these student-athletes are used to playing back-to-back games from tournaments in high school and college.

With that unique schedule, preparation throughout the week will look a little different. But with the added total of conference matchups, Scanlon is excited to see them contend for a South Division title.

“As far as preparation during the week, it’ll be a little simpler because you’re preparing for one team, but it will be an interesting turn-around after you play each other on that first night to see when we play them again what adjustments they make,” Scanlon said. “To sweep the same team on the weekend, I think is kind of an incentive. We’re going to play everyone (in our conference twice) so to have the opportunity to be the South Division champ, those back-to-back games are going to be really important.”

Following this season, the Lakers will welcome in three new talented recruits in Sophie Plate (Greenville High School), Julia Blaney (Saline High School) and Henley Sleight (Jackson Northwest High School) in the fall of 2021.

“When you represent GVSU, you wear the uniform of a great school with great traditions in the volleyball program,” Scanlon said to a representative of GVSU Sports Info last week. “We sought players who we felt fit with us and were passionate about Grand Valley. I believe Julia, Henly and Sophie are fierce competitors who are motivated by the environment here at Grand Valley to be great.”

While practices were cut back a week early with the new order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Scanlon was satisfied with the progress she saw her team make, as they were grateful to be together whenever they safely could.

“It’s been a lot of training time,” Scanlon said. “It really gave us an opportunity to start slow and work with the kids, rather than having to jump to a season in the Fall, with them basically being inactive 5-6 months (at that point). I feel like we got a really good base underneath us strength-wise and chemistry-wise. They were just excited to be together, get out of their homes and apartments and be with each other. We felt grateful to be back together this Fall.”

While the team hasn’t always been able to see each other physically, Scanlon has loved to see these student-athletes grow as people over the stressful year.

 “Just talking with our leadership council and our coaching staff, this could go one of two ways,” Scanlon said. “This can either stall and ground us, or we can choose to be better from this. What can we commit to? With athletes it sounds easy, but you’re used to having that physical bond with your teammates to play and interact with them.”

Much like many other GVSU sports teams, the Volleyball team grew closer this offseason through screens. They also bonded over marching for Black Lives Matter, conversations on social justice issues and while promoting the university’s Register to Vote movement.

“You have to find different avenues to stay motivated,” Scanlon said. “They stayed connected through Zoom calls, personal phone calls, reaching out to kids and the kids keeping in touch, they really made a commitment to be better at the end of all this. , they found ways outside of volleyball to bond, and grow as people more than anything.”

GVSU kicks off their season, Feb. 19-20 with a home doubleheader against the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.