By Sean Chase
After starting the season 0-2, the Grand Rapids Community College volleyball team returned to the Gordon Hunsberger Arena and dominated Lake Michigan Community College on Feb. 23, winning the match in straight sets 3-0. The scores at the end of the sets were 25-21, 25-11 and 25-16.
“Obviously, I thought we passed really well tonight,” said Chip Will, head coach of the GRCC volleyball team. “Anytime that we can pass well and get everybody involved offensively, I think that makes us really tough. Too many times when we don’t pass well, we become one-dimensional.”
Once again as the teams warmed up for the match the Ford Fieldhouse wasn’t filled with the normal buzz of excitement surrounding the GRCC volleyball team. However after the introductions, electricity filled the air as both benches began to cheer on their teammates.
The first set of the match started with GRCC taking the lead immediately, as they jumped out to a 2-0 advantage, which eventually grew to 5 points. Sophomore Annie Holesinger and freshman Kara Hecht were dominating the net. However, LMCC wasn’t going to just hand the set over to the Raiders, as set point neared, they were able to tie things up at 21-21. While LMCC was able to get back in the game, GRCC rattled off the next 4 points to secure the set, by a score of 25-21.
“They’re so physical with their size and their wingspan,” said Will, when asked about the performance of Hecht and Holesinger. “What they can do blocking and offensively from their physicality, they can just overpower the other team. I thought Lake Michigan did a nice job being scrappy and playing good defense, but when you have kids that can just physically overpower you, like those kids can, it makes a big difference.”
After a break between sets, LMCC started the second set by jumping to a 4-2 lead over the Raiders. However, just as they were getting their feet under them, sophomore Kailey Carmean dropped a shot past the Red Hawk defense, giving the ball back to GRCC. Hecht then took over service for the Raiders rattling off seven consecutive points to give GRCC a 5-point advantage. LMCC wasn’t able to muster any sort of comeback as the Raiders finished the set up 14 points, their largest lead of the night, 25-11.
GRCC started the third set by jumping out to a 5-point lead on LMCC. As the Red Hawks began to start their run, Holesinger once again made her presence felt on the court, blocking a hard spike to eliminate any momentum LMCC had built. The Red Hawks never recovered as GRCC went on to win the third and final set of the match, 25-16.
Communication was an issue for the Raiders in their first two matches of the season. Against the Red Hawks, Carmean stepped up to stabilize the team whenever their lead was in jeopardy, finishing the game with 22 assists and 5 kills.
“She’s our floor captain,” Will said. “She’s a kid who’s been a leader, whether she was in high school, club or (GRCC). She’s a kid that we really pushed the past couple days in practice to take control of the team offensively. When you have too many cooks in the kitchen it makes it tough. So it is nice to have one voice to say here’s what we’re doing, so we’re going to keep challenging her to be that person.”
Freshman Audrey Gower, who wore the Libero jersey for the first time as a Raider, led the team in digs, finishing with 13 as well as 3 assists. Will’s squad also received contributions from sophomore Kylie Oberlin (9 kills and 12 digs), Holesinger (9 kills and 4 digs), Hecht (6 kills and 10 digs), sophomore Gabi Kitley (2 kills and 3 digs), freshman Zari Kruger (1 kill and 6 digs), sophomore Haley Stewart (1 assist and 9 digs) and freshman Savannah Stoepker (1 assist and 4 digs).
Next the Raiders will head to Centreville to face the Vikings of Glen Oaks Community College, on Tuesday March 2. Tensions will be high as Coach Will’s squad looks to avenge early losses. The game will be livestreamed on the Glen Oaks Youtube channel.
“It’s nice playing them a second time, now that you know what to expect,” Will said. “We’ve talked about that it’s our job as coaches, when you lose the first matchup to make adjustments, try to figure out what we need to do to win that second one. So that’s where we are challenging ourselves not only as a team, but as a coaching staff, to make sure you can beat us once but our job is to not have you beat us twice.”