By Anthony Clark Jr.
In what could best be described as a trying and robust effort, the Grand Rapids Community College women’s volleyball team clinched the season series against the Glen Oaks Vikings Tuesday, March 16, 2-1. The Raiders’ regular season record has improved to 5-3 overall.
“I think the kids showed a lot of resiliency; this was the first time we have been pushed to five sets,” said head coach Chip Will. “Our physical and mental training in practice has helped prepare us to be successful in moments like last night.”
Demanding nonetheless, the sets finished at 25-23, 25-22, 36-34, 25-20 and 15-10.
The strong presence of sophomore Annie Holesinger continued to prove vital, as the outside hitter led the offensive attack once more with 17 kills; sophomore Kylie Oberlin, freshmen Zari Kruger and Kara Hecht (10 kills), and sophomore Gabi Kitley (nine kills) also continue to be pillars for the Raiders’ attack each game. Kruger (24 assists) and sophomore Kailey Carmean (26 assists) hoisted the attack as they did in their previous bout with a combined 50 of the total 56 team assists.
An eye-opening fault for the Raiders was their errors on the serving end of the match, finishing with 17 service errors that slowed the rhythm and disrupted the ability to get into their offensive sets – these mistakes led to the first set falling in favor of the Vikings.
“I’ll admit, last night was draining for both teams,” said Holesinger. “…it turned out to be the longest night. I think we understand that we need to start ahead early and come out swinging in order to shut teams down early.”
The Raiders came out with more energy in the second set, leading by as much as seven points (19-13) and forcing Glen Oaks into a timeout. The reconfiguration of the Viking’s game plan proved to be effective as they went on to rally a 6-2 comeback and forced the Raiders into their own timeout soon after. Though it seemed Glen Oaks may take a commanding 2-0 lead in the match, the Raiders were able to secure the second set and tie the game 1-1.
A back-and-forth affair describes the third set in a nutshell, with neither team able to take control of a comfortable lead – the largest lead reaching four points in favor of the Raiders. Those who witnessed the set were inclined to believe the Raiders would have it fall in their favor as they maintained a slight lead over the Vikings (24-23) and faced the set point that would have secured a 2-1 lead. The Raiders were, however, unable to capitalize, thus continuing the back-and-forth affair. With the set tied at 31, Glen Oaks made a debatable serving error that allowed the Raiders to take a 32-31 lead and resulted in a yellow card (warning) for the Viking’s head coach who did not agree with the official’s decision. Glen Oaks did not allow the decision to alter their determination, as the set resulted in a win for the Vikings and lasted an exhausting 35-minutes.
Carmean added onto Holesinger’s comments about the inability to start vigorously in the prolonged match but noted the team is more than capable of working as a unit and finding the answers to close out a rugged match.
“Last night’s game was probably one of the longest and most chaotic games we have played in thus far,” said Carmean. “We’ve been really focusing on the good we have been doing while working on the things we have been struggling with. Last night we struggled to get going and play the game we know we’re capable of… (but) that win definitely showed us that we are capable of going five sets and have the physical stamina to continue being successful in the postseason.”
Intensity from floor players, an electrifying bench presence, and improvement of the intangibles were the major factors in the Raiders’ 2-0 finish for the last two sets.
Due to the postponement of the originally scheduled Feb. 16 match against Ancilla College, the Raiders will play a double-header Friday, March 19, against the Chargers at the Ford Fieldhouse. The first game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. with the second following immediately after. The Chargers who are 0-11 continue to struggle to achieve a first win of the season, as the Raiders will look to take advantage of their upcoming opponent’s struggles and improve their season record to at least 6-3.
“Friday will be a long night for sure, but we understand what we have to work on in order to avoid those long, five-set games,” said Holesinger. “… (we have to) save our energy for districts and nationals coming up.”
Spectators can livestream the home games on the GRCC YouTube Channel.