The eighth ranked Grand Rapids Community College Raiders’ volleyball team picked up the win Thursday night in their first home game of the season against the 20th ranked Muskegon Community College Jayhawks.
The Raiders came out fast in the first set, jumping out to a 10-1 lead. The fast start forced the Jayhawks’ coach to call an early timeout to calm his team down. MCC turned things around after the timeout and climbed back in the set bringing the score to 14-12 in favor of the Raiders. Raiders’ head coach Chip Will called a timeout of his own to stop the bleeding.
Right out of the timeout, sophomore outside hitter Kendra DeJonge delivered a massive spike to get the Raiders headed back in the right direction. DeJonge had 22 kills on the night, 16 more than any other player.
MCC wasn’t going away however, and stormed back to take a 21-20 lead near the end of the first set. Will called his last timeout of the first set and inspired his team to finish the set strong. The Raiders did just that scoring five of the last six points to get 25-22 win in the first set.
“Just play our game,” DeJonge said recalling what Will told the team during the timeout. “Obviously, that’s a big match for us coming out and playing our rival…It was our first contact that won the game. We’ve been working on that in practice.”
The second set was tightly contested throughout. The two teams were deadlocked at 15 points aside when a few questionable calls went against the Raiders. Will was fired up on the bench and let the officials know he wasn’t happy with the calls they were making. That fire and adrenaline seemed to bleed over to the team as they picked up the energy. The Raiders jumped out to a 21-15 lead before finishing the set with a 25-19 win.
“We have a great coaching staff,” sophomore middle blocker Ally German said. “When they’re fired up, we’re fired up. They’re the ones that get us going as well as the crowd…when we’re fired up, we’re going to go out there and bang balls.”
After the second set victory, the Raiders were looking for a three-set sweep in this matchup between top 20 teams. Much like the first set, the Raiders jumped out to a big 10-2 lead to start the third set. Much like the first set, the Jayhawks made a comeback to make it a competitive set. The Jayhawks charged all the way back to make it a one score, 18-17 game forcing a Raider timeout.
“Usually when we start to fall apart, one error then leads to another,” German said. “But we have a really great connect with each other. We can just look at each other and be like, ‘hey, let’s step it up’ and then we’ll go out there and do it.”
Will said he thought his team did a great job of riding the ebbs and flows of the game, never hanging their heads when the Jayhawks made a run.
“Volleyball’s a roller coaster sport,” Will said. “There’s going to be ups and downs and for us, we want to never try to get too high or never want to try to get too down. So I thought we did a nice job with our sophomores, really, when we kind of needed to side out or when it got close. Our sophomores…have done a nice job.”
The Raiders weathered the storm and even with the score at 22-21 in the Raiders’ favor, finished the set strong to take it 25-22. The Raiders got the three-set sweep to pick up the win and move to 2-0 on the young season.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Will said. “A lot of the subs that came in did an awesome job. I thought our sophomores really showed their leadership today when we needed them to. As soon as they start making those runs, you need your leaders to step up.”
The Raiders have been tested as of late and will continue to be through the weekend. After battling Hurricane Lane in Hawaii, the team is ready to take on the much preferred tough tests of stiff competition.
After defeating the 20th ranked MCC Jayhawks last night, the team heads to Perrysburg, Ohio today for the Owens Express Classic. The Raiders will play four games over the course of two days before they head back into conference play against Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Michigan on Tues., Sept. 4. The Raiders’ next home game will be on Thurs., Sept. 6, at 6:30 p.m. against Ancilla College at Northview High School located at 4451 Hunsberger Ave. NE in Grand Rapids. Reminder that all home games this year will be played here due to the field house construction.