By Matthew Scheidel
The No. 7 ranked Grand Rapids Community College Raiders volleyball team defeated the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Cougars in straight sets on Sophomore Night at Northview High School Thursday night.
Both teams had a similar look tonight as they wore pink uniforms in honor of breast cancer awareness month.
The Raiders got out to an early 5-3 lead in the first set, then pulled ahead by four, 10-6. It got a little close from there, as the Cougars went on a small 3-0 run to pull within one. But the Raiders refused to let the Cougars tie it up, as every time KVCC pulled within one, the Raiders responded with a point. At 13-12 the Raiders pulled away with a huge 10-1 run to make it 23-13. They would go on to take the first set 25-14.
Sophomore outside hitter Cassidy Schumacher said the team finally got into a groove, which led to the big run.
“We went back to a new lineup,” Schumacher said. “One of our captains (Kayla Salyer) was out for a while, but she came back tonight and she got into a rhythm, which caused us to get into a rhythm. We hadn’t worked in that rotation for a while, so I think we just had to get used to that. Then once we all got into a rhythm, we really started feeling ourselves.”
In the second set, the Raiders got out to another early 5-3 lead. Then a mini 3-0 run forced a Cougars’ timeout which seemed to help the Raiders out more than the Cougars, as it was all Raiders from there on out. They went on a massive 13-1 run to make it 18-4. It was total domination as the Raiders took the second set, 25-6.
Between the second and third set, GRCC sophomore cross-country runners Sam Borisch and Trystan Thayer were honored for their recent achievements. They both broke the school record for fastest time in the 8K. Thayer now holds the new record with a time of 25:56.
In the 3rd set, the Raiders went on a 4-1 run to start the set. They forced a Cougars’ timeout leading 8-3. The complete and utter domination continued as they forced another Cougars’ timeout up 12-5, thanks in large part to two huge kills by Kayla Salyer. The Raiders went on to conclude the GRCC Sophomore Night spectacle by taking the final set 25-11 to take the match 3-0. The entire match took less than an hour to complete.
Schumacher said that it felt really good to win on Sophomore Night and was happy to see the entire team getting in on the action.
“I think we had a team contribution,” said Schumacher. “We were mixing the lineups. Coach told us, I think a week ago, that we had used 53 different lineups throughout the season which is pretty crazy. It was really nice that everybody contributed, from freshman to sophomore. It was a really nice way to end the home season.”
Sophomore defensive specialist Kelsie Schultz had similar feelings about getting one last home win as a sophomore.
“It feels really good,” Schultz said. “I love it here at GRCC and it’s just really nice to get another home win.”
Raiders’ Coach Chip Will was aware of the fact that he needed to get the sophomores some playing time on Sophomore Night but wanted to make sure that he was putting out lineups that would mesh well together.
“We were conscious of that, but we wanted to make sure that we are putting our best product out there too,” Will said. “It’s a balance of we’re making sure we are putting everybody in a situation where they can be successful. You never want to mess up a lineup too much and put kids in an awkward position. I think the whole team played tonight. We kind of made that a priority.”
Throughout the night, there was a very loose atmosphere on the Raiders’ bench. Schultz said that could be attributed to a number of factors.
“Everyone was just playing really good,” Schultz said. “We were just here for the sophomores and it’s our last home game. Everyone was just excited to be out here.”
Will was very pleased with the team’s overall performance in the game and attributed it to the team’s most recent practice where they focused on their first-ball contacts.
“I think we were very clean,” Will said. “We passed very well and served very well, which we made a priority in Wednesday’s practice. I think that showed tonight. I think we kept a pretty good team to about 10 in each set. It was fun to finally get a very clean win.”
The Raiders have a quick turnaround tomorrow. They were scheduled to take a five-hour bus ride to Springfield, Illinois immediately after the game for a tournament that begins Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. Will said the weekend tournament will be good for the team.
“We’ll be playing some great competition,” Will said. “We’ll be playing some teams that we’ve never seen before, so we’ll have to learn how to adjust in match. I think we have two or three top 15 matchups while we’re there, so it’s going to be a good test for us to see if we’re legitimate national contenders or not. It’s also going to make us focus on the game plan, the scouting and making sure we’re picking up tendencies of teams that we don’t ever get to see.”
After the tournament, GRCC’s regular season will conclude with a road game against the Lansing Community College Stars on Tuesday, Oct. 23, and then it’s on to the playoffs for the Raiders.