By Anthony Clark Jr.
After Muskegon Community College could no longer participate due to positive COVID-19 tests, the Grand Rapids Community College women’s volleyball team found themselves with a chance to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Tournament as the first runner-ups.
The tournament consisted of 16 different teams from across the nation that qualified for a playoff seed.
“We worked our butts off to get to where we are and finishing 10th in the nation has definitely given us a bittersweet end to the season,” said sophomore setter Kailey Carmean. “I think placing at nationals is definitely the boost we needed to push us to continue being successful in the upcoming season, and has given us the confidence and realization that we are capable of very big things.”
The Raiders were upset by Gulf Coast State College 3-0 in the first round of the tournament, as each set finished 25-10, 25-16 and 25-23. This meant the team would drop down to the consolation bracket and have one more shot at placing 9th overall in the national tournament.
Sophomore outside hitter Annie Holesinger was a dominant presence during her freshman season for the Raiders and continued to be vital throughout the entirety of her sophomore season. During the tournament, Holesinger reached another milestone as she surpassed 200 career digs. She reflected on the team’s last-minute opportunity to be a part of the national tournament and how the finish of one of the most mentally and emotionally demanding seasons felt.
“Of course we wanted it to go another way, but the way we fought for our spot was unlike any other game,” said Holesinger. “Yes, we were handed a spot in the national tournament but we earned our place and all of us are extremely grateful for our opportunity.”
A handful of other Raiders reached new career milestones during the postseason run, as sophomore Kylie Oberlin was named to the NJCAA Division II All-Tournament Team and surpassed 100 career digs, Carmean reached 800 career assists, and freshman Kara Hecht recorded 100 career kills.
After defeating Potomac State College and Pima Community College, the Raiders positioned themselves just one match away from clinching the 9th place position. Unfortunately, the Raiders were not able to overcome Terra State Community College in a four set bout as each set finished 25-16, 28-26, 25-14 and 25-15.
No matter what hurdle was set in front of the team, each and every player on the roster battled their way through the adversity as a unit. The Raiders were part of a select few teams that were able to avoid coming in contact with COVID-19, but they were, unfortunately part of the large proportion of teams that experienced multiple postponements or cancellations of matches throughout the season. However, the Raiders never allowed the global pandemic to affect them mentally, physically, or emotionally whenever they had a chance to be on the court.
“This team is one I will never forget and every single girl stepped up and added value to our team and success,” said Carmean. “I cannot wait to play with them all again in the fall.”