The eighth ranked Grand Rapids Community College Raiders’ volleyball team defeated the Ancilla College Chargers in three sets on Thursday night at Northview High School.
The Raiders came out not looking their best and allowed the Chargers to jump out to an early 8-5 lead in the first set. Raiders’ head coach Chip Will could be seen on the sidelines telling his team, “let’s go, let’s go.” That simple message seemed to be received by his team loud and clear. The Raiders responded by going on an 8-4 run to take a 16-12 lead. Sophomore leader Kayla Salyer said the team recognized they needed to pick up their play, and they did just that.
“I think we just had to get in the groove of it,” Salyer said. “After we started getting a few kills, a few blocks, a few aces, we kept getting in the groove of it. So I think we kind of figured it out towards the end of the set.”
The Raiders did indeed figure things out after Will called a timeout. When play resumed after the timeout, the Raiders scored four unanswered points and closed the first set on a 9-5 run to pick up the set one win 25-17.
At the start of the second set, GRCC scored the first three points but allowed the Chargers to get the next five points. With the Raiders down 8-7, a long volley ensued that lasted near a minute. At the end of the exciting play, the Raiders finally were awarded a point to tie the match. The point seemed to ignite a fire in GRCC’s play, and they scored four unanswered points after the long volley to take 12-8 lead.
“It really brings us all together,” Sophomore Kendra DeJonge stated about winning the point after a lengthy volly. “We all worked super hard for the point. On the bench too, we’re all super excited. Just winning that big point just gives us — we just want to run and keep winning points from there.”
Even with the momentum of winning the point and jumping out to a lead, Ancilla didn’t go away and eventually battled back to tie the set at 13. The Raiders regained a modest lead of 16-14 before a GRCC timeout. The timeout seemed to work for the Raiders as they came out and finished the set on a 9-3 run giving them a 25-17 win in the second set.
“We have some great athletes on this team, and I think we have that ability to run down balls,” Will said. “They’re fast, they’re athletic…those things can build momentum. But it’s also then not only that one point, but it’s also finding ways (to get that next point and not) miss a serve, and I think that’s where sometimes we struggle is we do something really, really well and we’re building momentum and the crowd is going crazy and the kids are going crazy, and then we’ll go back and we’ll miss a serve…It’s like everything you just built up — or they’ll call timeout and we’ll miss a serve. It’s finding ways to keep that going and keep that maturity level going of knowing how to keep runs going.”
Up two sets to none, Will decided to cycle in players from the bench for the third set and give some of the regulars a rest. This decision appeared to backfire at first as the Raiders fell behind 10-3. Will called another timely timeout, which his team yet again responded well to. After the timeout, GRCC went on an 8-2 run to close the gap and forced the Chargers to take a timeout now only leading 12-11.
Unlike the Raiders, the Chargers came out flat after their coach’s timeout and fell behind 20-15. But with some of the younger, less experienced Raiders in the game, Ancilla stuck around and tied the game up at 23. Will went back to his star to close the game and DeJonge re-entered the game. This move would prove to be the right decision as DeJonge immediately had a kill. There would be no second rally for the Chargers as the Raiders scored the final point of the match clinching a 25-23 set win 3-0 sweep of Ancilla.
After the game, Will disclosed his game plan of sitting DeJonge and other regulars for most of the third set.
“For us, we want to see how the kids respond when Kendra (DeJonge) is not on the court,” Will said. “We rested Kendra that set, so a lot of times we rely on her to find ways to make the pass or get the kill. So for us, we want to make sure that everybody has that confidence, that, ‘hey I’m gonna get this ball, so I’m working hard in transition.’ Or, ‘hey, I get to come in and serve.’ It’s a privilege to be on the court. We want to give kids opportunities, but we also want to see them work hard when they’re on the court.”
Sayler praised the team’s grit after the game, specifically coming back from the 10-3 deficit in the third set.
“That was not ideal to start down 10-3,” Sayler said. “(Will) was just like, ‘hey, you gotta play your game, you gotta do it.’ Everyone has to step up, we have to be part of a team. So we went out there, the DS’s especially stepped up, passed the ball and that’s what we really needed in that time. So I think they did a really good job of that.”
DeJonge spent most of the third set on the bench cheering on her team through their early set struggles. She discussed the importance of playing their game even when things are looking bleak.
“I think at the end of the game, it’s more important to stay level headed,” DeJonge said. “I think when we try to play outside of our boundaries, then it gets a little shaky. But when we get back into playing our game…taking a good swing at the ball, then it really helps us win out the match.”
With the win, the Raiders move to 7-1 on the season. GRCC will head to Battle Creek, Michigan on Tuesday, Sep. 11 to take on the Kellogg Community College Bruins at 6:30 p.m. The Raiders return home next Thursday, Sep. 13 to do battle with the Jackson College Jets at 6:30 p.m. at Northview High School. Reminder that all home games this year will be played at Northview High School due to GRCC’s ongoing Fieldhouse construction.