The Grand Valley State University volleyball team traveled to Saginaw Valley State University this weekend to take part in the GLIAC volleyball tournament. The Lakers entered the tournament as a three seed and started play on April 9 in the quarterfinals against Ashland University winning 3-0, but would lose Saturday in a hard fought semifinals matchup against Northern Michigan 4-1.
After receiving an opening round bye, the Lakers came out on fire in the quarterfinal matchup. In the opening set, the Lakers were able to jump to a 6-1 lead with dominant defensive performances. GVSU led as much as 11 points in the opening match, 23-12. Ashland was fighting back at the end of the set, as they scored six straight points before the Lakers would take care of business. An attacking error by Ashland would give the Lakers a first set victory.
In the second set, it was a back-and-forth game to start as both teams were trading points. The Lakers then went on a 7-1 run to take an early 12-7 lead. The Ashland Eagles wouldn’t let that stop them as they were able to trim the Lakers lead to two, with a 15-13 score.
GVSU was able to take over after three straight kills by sophomore Karlie Kucharczyk. The Lakers continued to dominate the rest of the game, winning the second set 25-19.
The Lakers looked to sweep the Ashland Eagles and move on to the semifinals, and would score the first seven points to open the third set. Ashland wouldn’t let up, as they continued to fight back and stay in the game. GVSU would increase their lead 10-6 and then score the next eight points to put the set and match out of reach for Ashland. The Lakers would win the third set 25-17 and secure the match.
GVSU recorded a season high .238 attack percentage and tallied 45 kills compared to Ashland’s 32 kills. Junior Ali Thompson led the team with 14 kills, while sophomore setter Rachel Jacquay dished out 37 assists as sophomore Sarah Wight recorded four total blocks. The Lakers would advance to the GLIAC tournament semifinals against Northern Michigan.
In the semifinal’s matchup against Northern Michigan on Saturday, the Lakers would start off on a bad note. Northern Michigan University came out and started with a 5-1 lead against the Lakers. They would then end up pulling within one point of Northern Michigan’s 9-8 lead.
A few serves later, an attacking error by NMU would give the Lakers a one-point advantage, 13-12. In a hard fought first set, the Lakers would end up losing 20-25, putting them behind in the match and giving Northern Michigan the first set.
In the second set, GVSU would open the game with an early 2-1 lead after back-to-back points. Northern Michigan came from behind after an attacking error by Thompson and took their first lead of the set. Another Laker error would then give NMU a 10-8 lead.
After a 13-13 tie, the Lakers would go on a 4-0 run, extending their lead to 3, 16-13. The Wildcats then went on a 4-0 run of their own to take the lead. GV tied the game 18-18 but NMU would go on another 4-0 lead to take a 22-18 advantage. A Northern Michigan kill would end the second set, 25-21 and the Lakers would go down 2-0 in the match with a chance to fight back and win the third set.
The third set started off with an early 2-0 lead from Northern Michigan, but the Lakers would mount a comeback. They took a 7-3 lead after a kill by junior Abby Graham. Northern Michigan would take a timeout, which was good for the Lakers as they never lost the lead and won the third set, 25-17. The Lakers were still alive in the match, although they had some work to do down 2-1.
As the Lakers tried to mount a comeback, Northern Michigan had a chance to close the door and end the match in the fourth set. Both teams were trading points to open the set. GV would take an early 12-9 lead after a kill by redshirt-senior Jayla Wesley. The attacking play from the Lakers was starting to ramp up as they took a 19-14 lead before a Northern Michigan timeout. NMU would score three straight points to trim the Lakers lead to two, 19-17. A Grand Valley timeout led to the Wildcats pulling within one point, but the Lakers would increase their lead after back-to-back points. The Lakers later went up 23-21, but Northern Michigan rallied back and went on a 4-0 scoring run to lead the Wildcats to victory. They won the fourth set, 25-23, and the Lakers would lose the match and exit the GLIAC tournament.
“It was disappointing to see,” said coach Deanne Scanlon. “But the team played at a great level and it was great to see that. We’re all looking forward to coming back next season with the same high intensity and pressure we had this season.”
The GVSU volleyball team would end their season 12-4 overall and 11-3 in the conference. The team has a lot of young and returning talent, with only one senior on the roster this year.
Four women on the team received All-GLIAC honors. Two players – juniors Ali Thompson and Jaelianna Primus – received first team honors, junior Abby Graham received second team honors, and junior Karlie Kucharczyk was an honorable mention. Primus was also named GLIAC Blocker of the Year, as she led all of DII in solo blocks and ranked eighth in DII, as well as lead the GLIAC in blocks per set.
“It feels really good to be recognized and honored,” Primus said. “It feels really good to accomplish that and it was one of my long-term goals this season. It’s fun to see all the hard work and the competing. Our team is really competitive so just all the competitiveness within the whole year. We’ve been practicing, just playing out and seeing where that goes is great to see at the end of the year.”
Playing sports this year was a struggle for everyone amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lakers were able to be resilient and play through it all.
“It was a challenge at first for sure,” Scanlon said. “I think we formed a great bondage and the fact that we were able to play and practice during the pandemic was great. The girls were ready to come out this season facing this challenge as they had a whole level of commitment to the season and the team. I look forward to next season as I know we’re in store to do some great things.”
The GVSU volleyball team ended their season on a bittersweet note, but they’re hungry and ready for next season.
“We definitely wanted to get the conference championship this year but next year we’re going to gun for it again,” Primus said. “So definitely get that conference championship next year as well as the national championship. We came out as a great unit and we look forward to coming out and doing that same thing next year too.”