By Matthew Scheidel
The No. 5 ranked Grand Rapids Community College Raiders volleyball team suffered their first home loss of the season as they fell to the Lansing Community College Stars 3-2 on Thursday night at Northview High School.
It was also their first loss in conference play this season.
On an unusually warm night in the Northview High School gymnasium, where it seemed as though the air conditioning wasn’t working and two industrial fans had to be brought in, the game was back and forth right from the get-go as both team traded blows, leading to a 5-5 deadlock early in the first set. The Stars always had answers to Raiders’ points. However, the Raiders found their stride, with a couple of big points and a 4-1 run both resulting in timeouts by the Stars. The Raiders took the first set 25-16.
The Raiders struggled out of the gate in the second set, falling behind 6-1 to begin the set. Then they rallied with a 7-0 run to force a Stars timeout. The Stars regrouped after the timeout, giving the Raiders fits and retaking the lead 14-11. But the Raiders rallied once again, taking a 21-17 lead. But the Stars once again showed resistance, roaring back with a 4-1 run of their own to force a Raiders timeout. The Stars would go on to take the second set, 25-23.
Raiders’ coach Chip Will praised Lansing for their resilience after the game.
“They played well,” Will said. “It was a good match, but what we’ve gotta get better at is creating our own points. We relied on some errors early on tonight. We’ve got to do a better job of earning things for ourselves and not waiting for other teams to give it to us. At the end of the day, I think that’s what happened. They had no fear, they had nothing to lose. So they just came out swinging hard.”
The Raiders began showing some frustration in the third set, even though they jumped out to an early 7-3 lead. They channeled that frustration to take a commanding 17-10 lead, forcing a Lansing timeout. The charge was led by sophomore outside hitter Kendra DeJonge.
“We just had to play our game,” DeJonge said. “We have to keep their runs down to a minimum, control the first contact, serve, and pass. So just really play our game to keep the momentum on our side of the net.”
The Raiders ended up taking the third set 25-17.
The fourth set started with both teams trading blows once again, as it was 6-6 early in the set. This continued later on in the set, with the score knotted up at 12. The Raiders went on an 8-3 run to take a 20-15 lead, but the Stars quickly racked up three points to trim the lead down to two. Raiders called two timeouts, one at 20-18, and one at 21-19. A huge block by Lauren Jonker broke a 21-21 tie. However, Lansing then rallied to take the set 25-22.
The fifth set was highly contested once again, tied at five early on. With the game on the line, both teams took several timeouts during this final set. The match was tied at 14. It had gone back and forth the whole way. In the end, it was the Stars that came out on top. They took the final set, 16-14, to pull off the upset.
Sophomore middle blocker Ally German noted the unusual heat in the building affected the team in one way but that they really just needed to clean it up.
“Usually if the gym is hot, we can push through it,” German said. “So I’m not gonna blame it all on the heat.”
DeJonge, on the other hand, believed that the heat did play a factor in the team’s performance.
“We’re not used to playing in really warm conditions and it made the floor really slippery, so we just kind of had to be careful,” DeJonge said. “We normally don’t go five sets either, so we just had to work our butts off to finish strong. We tried our best.”
Will didn’t think that the heat played a huge role during the game.
“On Tuesday we played in a pretty hot gym too,” Will said. “Both teams have to play in this. We didn’t play our best. We made some errors, the coaching staff made some errors on the court, but it’s okay. There’s still a lot of volleyball left to play.”
German said that the team can rebound from this loss by “pushing it to the back.”
“It’s good because it’s early in the season,” German said. “We’re just going to get better every single day. At the end of the day, we lost together as a team. We’re gonna build on it and just get better.”
DeJonge said that this loss will give them a chip on their shoulder.
“They were the underdog, and they came out guns a blazing,” DeJonge said. “I think it will make us play harder and keep up our expectations for everyone.”
Will said that the loss will provide the opportunity for the players to understand that when teams play them, they are going to give their best.
“This makes (Lansing’s) season,” Will said. “But we’ve got to understand that it takes a level of discipline. We’ve got to make sure that we have a killer instinct to be able to put matches away.”
The Raiders will look to rebound in their next match against Glen Oaks Community College at 6:30 p.m. at Northview High School, located at 4451 Hunsberger Ave. NE in Grand Rapids. All the Raiders’ home games are being played at Northview High School this year due to GRCC’s ongoing fieldhouse construction.
This story was update on Friday, Sept. 21 to correct an error in the headline.