By Aaron Stoner
The Grand Rapids Community College volleyball team dominated the Lake Michigan College Red Hawks on Thursday night, winning in straight sets bringing their record to 17-2.
The Raiders came in riding a six-game winning streak, but were a little methodical to start.
The Red Hawks kept things close in the beginning stages of the first set, but back-to-back kills by Breanna Wickerink and Kendra DeJonge got the Raiders up early 6-5. Things stayed tight throughout the first contest and the Red Hawks seemed unphased by the Raiders’ eighth place national ranking, playing with tremendous energy.
It was freshman outside hitter Emma Pachulski though who had a few huge, timely kills. She seemed to be the spark throughout the night for the Raiders, and carried the team to their first set win, with a score of 25-18.
When asked about Pachulski’s play, Raiders’ coach Chip Will said with a smile, “Emma was great. She understands that when she goes into the game, because she’s such a strong hitter, to remember to manage her strength, and focus on her hitting. I usually tell her to try and keep it around an 80 to 85, because 100 for her is usually too much. But yeah, I thought she did a good job tonight.”
The second set was practically a mirror image of the first, with both teams battling and keeping things tight early. An ace by Mykayla Vallad, followed by points from Pachulski and freshmen Lauren Jonker brought the score to 10-7 and a quick timeout for the Red Hawks. Three straight points from Lake Michigan evened the score, but again, the Raiders were tenacious proving to be too much for the Red Hawks.
Strong service from Jasmine Wellet and a big kill from freshmen Danielle Johnston lead to a three-point Raider rally and forced another timeout by the Red Hawks in an attempt to try and stop the momentum. The Raiders refused to let Lake Michigan back in, and would close the set with an impressive 25-16 win.
Utilizing almost his entire roster during the contest, Will said it was great to see his team battle and fight through some adversity.
“We really do have tremendous depth, and I really liked how we as a team played and didn’t let our slow start get to us,” Will said. “Our players practice so hard, and tonight it was nice to get contributions and strong play from the whole team.”
In the third and final set, the Raiders would go on an 8-1 tear forcing an early timeout from the Red Hawks. Their dominance would continue with kills from Cassidy Schumacher and Wickerink, a fierce block from sophomore Lindsey Glaz, and another monster kill from Pachulski, would further the Raiders’ score and put the game entirely out of reach for the Red Hawks with a final of 25-13.
“I know my role for sure,” Pachulski offered when asked about her play. “I want to be a spark and bring energy. If I’m not in the game, I always just try to stay patient, stay ready, and then when my number’s called, I just try to go out there and kill it.”
When asked about how her team keeps up their solid play and stacking up the wins, sophomore Kendra DeJonge said, “We’ve got a great team, and we all work really hard. We also have great depth and can rotate in and get awesome play from so many different players, like for instance Emma (Pachulski) tonight, who’s a powerhouse! So yeah, we really just have to keep grinding.”
The Raiders play on the road Tues., Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. against Ancilla College, and then are back home Thurs., Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. against the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Cougars at Northview High School, located at 4451 Hunsberger Ave. NE in Grand Rapids. All home games this year will be played at Northview High School due to GRCC’s ongoing fieldhouse construction.