After weather complications in Hawaii due to Hurricane Lane and long flights, the Grand Rapids Community College volleyball team is back home in Grand Rapids safely.
The team had been in Hawaii Since Aug. 16 playing volleyball with a Hawaiian league in preparation for the season back at GRCC. They were set to return to Grand Rapids on Thursday, but with the threat of Hurricane Lane, a Category 3 storm, were delayed a day.
Tonight, the team returned home after taking a flight out of Hilo on the Big Island to LAX airport in Los Angeles late last night.
Parents and family members were at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport to greet the team with cheers and applause after their safe arrival. Lisa German, 46, of Fruitport, mother of Ally German, was happy her daughter was on her way home after the team’s long trip.
“We’re glad, I think the girls had a wonderful time, but they’re glad to be home,” German said. “It was a long trip, but we’re glad they’re home and safe.”
Travel was arranged through GRCC, and it was college administrators who made the decision to have the team stay an extra day to avoid any catastrophes related to Hurricane Lane. A decision German and the rest of the parents were thankful was made.
“GRCC opted that it was not safe for them to go from where they were located to the other side (of the island),” German said. “So GRCC decided it was safer for them to stay put and get a flight out the next day out of the same town they were in. It was one day later, so it wasn’t that bad.”
Sandy DeJonge, Kendra DeJonge’s mother, was also grateful for the delay in travel to ensure the safety of the team.
“It was a good thing,” DeJonge said. “We were scared with the thought of them driving from the one town across the island to the other side, so when they told us they were going to be staying there and flying out of that town that made me feel 100 percent better.”
Captain Kendra DeJonge was happy to be home after her journey, too.
“I’m very happy,” DeJonge said. “It’s a relief to be home after the traveling for hours, so like the entire day.”
But after their arduous journey home, DeJonge says the team is ready to get back to work and back to school on Monday.
“We’re pumped,” DeJonge said. “Adjusting to the time change, six hour difference, will be hard, but we have to prepare the best we can.”
The team’s first game is on Tuesday against Glen Oaks Community College in Centerville, Michigan. Coach Chip Will is happy with the team’s performance in Hawaii, where they played mostly scrimmage games, and is ready for the team to get to work.
“For us it was obviously a great two weeks,” Will said. “We got to play some amazing volleyball, we got to do some amazing things. I know the kids have a lot of preparation to start their academic school year. With us, academics are a huge part of it. We had a 3.6 GPA (last year), so academics is a huge part for us.”
The team will have little time to settle as school starts Monday, but Will is confident the team will continue to play well enough to reach a national title again this year.
“For us, we’ve played some great competition,” Will said. “I don’t think we’ll see anybody this year as talented as the teams we saw there (in Hawaii), so for us it was the first step to go. If we want to win a national title this is a good measuring stick because if we can hang with those teams out there we know that we have it in us. So now it’s just kind of making sure we keep progressing throughout the year and keep improving.”