The nationally ranked No. 3 Grand Rapids Community College Raiders took on the Muskegon Community College Jayhawks in a Michigan Community College Athletic Association conference match and the Raiders walked out of Gordon Hunsberger Arena winners, 3-1.
The Gerald R. Ford Jobs Corps began the night with a speech promoting awareness of violence in the Grand Rapids community and the rest of the world. A small group of Job Corps students performed the National Anthem.
“The Job Corps. is designed to address the issue of equality, lack of employment and the thought is to give young people the opportunity to grow, learn and develop,” said John Crowley, Director of Social Development of the Job Corps. “It’s like the old proverb, give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, teach a man how to fish he can eat for a lifetime.”
The administration was founded by President John F. Kennedy and was carried further by his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson. There are currently 122 Job Corps in the United States with three in Michigan in Grand Rapids, Flint and Detroit.
The pregame speech and rendition of the Star Spangled Banner brought energy and life to the Ford Fieldhouse crowd.
The rivalry match had that energy flowing early and often leading to a hotly contested first set. The Raiders showed flashes of brilliance as well as some weakness and the Jayhawks won the first set, 25-22.
“They came out and played pretty well” said Raiders Head Coach, Chip Will, “I thought we started the game pretty clean.”
The Raiders and Jayhawks brought the energy right back during the second set and continued to play their style, but a few mistakes from the Raiders brought the score closer than they would have liked. A surge at the end gave the Raiders the win in the second set, 25-22.
“It was way too much like a roller coaster,” Will said. “Our highs were too high, and our lows were too low.”
The third set began and the Raiders came out and poured on the dominance from the first whistle. They seemed to beat the Jayhawks into the floor and won the third set by an overpowering score of 25-11.
“It was good for our kids to play with that pressure and in that environment,” Will said, “We made some great adjustments.”
Sophomore Libero/Defensive Specialist Peyton Helsen took her leadership role to the next level and led the Raiders through an emotional fourth set, where the Raiders took a dominant lead early on. But the Jayhawks did not go down without a fight, forcing a tiebreaker after scoring 3 out of 4 points.
“We had a tough one tonight and I think it was good for us to have to this type of competition leading into regionals,” Helsen said. “We did really well at keeping our composure when the game got tight and coming back after the loss in the first set.”
Unaware of securing their seventh conference championship in the last nine seasons, Helsen voiced her excitement.
“That’s really awesome, so exciting to hear that.”
Not being accustomed to playing in tough matches really put the No.3 ranked Raiders to
the test, but overall the team feels that this experience was something they needed.
“We really came together as a team, because we never really get put in those situations,” said Middle Blocker/ Right Side Hitter Lena Thompson. “But it was really good for us to get that experience heading into tournament play.”
Despite winning another conference crown, Thompson remains focus on the duration of this season.
“It feels good, but we still have more games ahead of us,” she said.
The Raiders won the set 27-25 and the match 3-1. The win all but ensures that the Raiders will clinch their 7th MCCAA conference title in the last nine seasons. As well as a first round bye in the Regional tournament.
The [result] moves the Raiders to 18-1 overall for the season and 11-0 in MCCAA play.
The Raiders take on Kellogg Community College this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Ford Fieldhouse.