The 12th ranked Grand Rapids Community College Raiders volleyball team defeated the Lansing Community College Stars 3-0 Tuesday night and clinched the Michigan Community College Athletic Association conference championship in the process.
The last time these two teams faced each other, the Stars upset the Raiders at Northview High School in Grand Rapids in five sets. GRCC was ranked No. 5 in the country at the time and it was just the second loss of the season for the Raiders. A lot was made of that loss and the Raiders wanted to vindicate it with a win this time around.
“We played really good tonight,” sophomore middle blocker Ally German said after the game. “We came in looking for some revenge since we lost to them last time, so we came in and focused on running fast and being clean to take care of business, which is exactly what we did.”
The Raiders did indeed take care of business in the match and GRCC sophomore outside hitter Kendra DeJonge credited their play to seizing momentum and controlling the serving and passing aspect of the game.
“We did a good job controlling what we could do on our side of the net and keeping the momentum on our side,” DeJonge said. “It was important to keep their runs to a minimum, which we did tonight and took care of first contacts.”
The win was important, not only for clinching the conference championship, but regaining some confidence and momentum after a rough weekend. The Raiders traveled to Springfield, Illinois this past weekend to compete in the Lincoln Land Classic. The team struggled losing three out of four games and suffered their first back-to-back losses of the season.
“We don’t like to lose, so the tournament in Illinois was hard,” sophomore middle blocker Kayla Salyer said. “But it taught us how to be mentally tough, since we played back-to-back and with a lot of sets. It also showed us where we need to get to by the end of the year. As a team, we just need to continue having great team chemistry on the court and keep grinding and getting the job done.”
The Illinois tournament slated the Raiders against some of the other top teams in the country. They went in ranked No. 7 in the country, but after the three losses, they dropped five spots in the national rankings.
The Raiders finished the regular season with a record of 23-5, and 15-1 in the conference. With the regular season over and the conference now clinched, national rankings won’t help the Raiders prepare for the playoffs that lie ahead of them. DeJonge outlined how the team can be successful going forward and emphasized the importance of playing clean and staying healthy.
“To get ready for playoffs, I think it’s important that we clean up a few small things like our serve receive and taking care of easy balls that get sent over the net,” DeJonge said. “But most importantly, staying healthy physically and mentally being prepared for what’s ahead of us.”
The Raiders have had national title aspirations all season long and now that the playoffs are here, German expressed her excitement and said that she wants to leave her fingerprints on this program.
“I’m really excited for (the) playoffs because we have a great chance of going to nationals,” German said. “I want to leave the legacy of making it to nationals because of working hard and putting in 110 percent effort. As a sophomore, I’m going into (the) playoffs proud of my team and my own performance, and I believe we are going to go really far which is super exciting.”
So the stage is now set. The Raiders will play their first playoff game against the Oakland Community College Raiders at noon Sat., Oct. 27 at the Ballenger Fieldhouse in Flint.