By Anthony Clark Jr.
With nothing short of optimism and determination, the Grand Rapids Community College women’s volleyball team fell to the Muskegon Jayhawks, 3-0, in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XII Great Lakes District A Tournament Finals.
This loss finished the Raiders season with an overall record of 8-5, as each set finished at 25-17, 25-23 and 25-17. With this record, the Raiders were not able to qualify for the NJCAA Division II National Tournament that is set to begin April 13.
“We knew coming into the season that it was going to be a slow start,” said head coach Chip Will. “There were a lot of moments where we couldn’t play because of teams having players test positive. Our main focus was growth and we certainly achieved that while being able to stay healthy until the end of the season.”
Muskegon Community College has continued to be a force to be reckoned with throughout the 2020-21 season, as the team remains undefeated at 16-0. The Raiders were unable to secure a victory over the Jayhawks in the four times they faced them over the course of a three-game regular season series and the postseason battle.
An array of Raiders received honors this season from the Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA):
- Sophomore Kylie Oberlin – First Team All-Conference, All-MCCAA/Region
- Sophomore Gabi Kitley – First Team All-Conference, All-MCCAA/Region
- Sophomore Annie Holesinger – Second Team All-Conference, All-MCCAA/Region
- Sophomore Kailey Carmean – Honorable Mention All-Conference
- Freshman Kara Hecht – Honorable Mention All-Conference, All-Freshman Team
Although the team experienced an unfortunate end to the season, the Raiders fought hard through cancellations, postponements, and strict health and safety protocols. This season was not the typical season a collegiate volleyball player, coach, or team as a collective normally experiences. This loss came after two postseason matches were canceled for the Raiders, as they were automatically advanced to the finals game against Muskegon after Henry Ford Community College and St. Clair Community College teams were no longer able to participate due to positive COVID-19 tests.
“The season was one to remember, that’s for sure,” said sophomore Savannah Stoepker. “…Though I started late, I didn’t feel out of place because this season was much different than usual for everyone involved, as we tried to navigate through new stipulations in order to make our season the safest it could be. Between losing a week due to miscommunication and having limited gym time, our season started pretty rocky.”
No matter what is to be said about the upsetting tournament loss, the Raiders battled. There were many times that teams across not only the state of Michigan but the entire country had to remain skeptical about whether or not they would have a season to begin with considering the amount of postponements and cancellations due to the pandemic.
To remain physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for something that isn’t set-in-stone is a task on its own, and that is what Holesinger noted during her reflection of the 2020-21 season.
“You know this season was hard on all of us,” Holesinger. said. “It was mentally, physically and emotionally draining. We put in the time and work to get better, we just didn’t show up to play when we needed to most. It was definitely a frustrating season for us sophomores as we knew what it took to get to nationals but most of us are returning so we hope that everyone puts in the work in the off-season and we will be back next year, back on top.”
Stoepker also commented on the Raiders not being able to perform to their fullest potential and the psychological rollercoaster brought on by the pandemic translated to the efficiency of play on the court.
“We didn’t perform to the best of our ability until late March I would say, but when we started to play as a team it was incredible,” Stoepker said. “I’m very lucky to have played with these girls and to have learned from the coaching staff. The season ending wasn’t ideal but I’m excited to watch the team compete next year. I’ll be cheering them on from Grand Valley (State University).”
The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) granted any collegiate level athletes of the 2019 spring to 2021 winter seasons an extra year of eligibility for their sport due to the various obstructions by COVID-19. Essentially, this gives players the option to participate in a full season (and postseason play if applicable) if they so choose to utilize this opportunity. Therefore, various sophomore faces on the Raiders’ 2020-21 season roster can potentially return for a third and final season.
Although this season has come to an end, updates and other information regarding GRCC sports teams can be found on the GRCC Athletics page.