By Kaia Zimmerman
The Grand Rapids Community College women’s volleyball team traveled to Perrysburg, Ohio to compete in the Owens Express Invitational over the weekend. The Raiders finished the tournament 2-2 overall.
Between the McHenry County Invite on Aug. 20-21 and the Owens Express Invitational, the Raiders have faced five nationally ranked teams: No. 1 Johnson County Community College, No. 2 Parkland College, No. 3 Iowa Central Community College, No. 8 Kirkwood Community College, and No. 12 Catawba Valley Community College.
“We obviously challenged ourselves with the schedule,” GRCC Head Coach Chip Will said. “We are playing so many top 10 teams in the country. I wanted to see if we were willing and able to compete with the nation’s best. I think after these two weeks, we have really learned that we’re right there from an ability standpoint with the top four teams in the country.”
“We played everybody really close… I loved to see that we have the ability to compete for a national title. Even when we were down, our kids really battled together, fought, never gave up, and those are the things that we can’t teach,” he said.
Sophomore Annie Holesinger dominated on the court, leading in three out of the four games in kills for the Raiders. Through the four game stretch, she had a total of 48 kills and 15 blocks. Her game-high was in a win against CVCC where she secured 18 kills along with three blocks.
“She is a kid who has the ability to be one of the nation’s best at the net,” Will said. “She can be a dominant force blocking. She can be a dominant force offensively. I think she didn’t play as well as she would’ve liked last year during the spring modified season, and I think she put in a lot of work in the offseason to get back to the ability she knows she can be at… I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how dominant she is.”
The Raiders started the two-day tournament off against CVCC where they won 3-1 (25-21, 17-25, 25-21, 25-21).
The Raiders were led by Holesinger with 18 kills and three blocks along with freshmen Morgan Fugate and Audrey Torres who both had 10 kills. With sophomore Kaylie Carmean out with an injury, freshman Ola Nowak filled in the gap with a dominant performance at the setter position with 28 assists and 19 digs. The Raiders also received contributions from redshirt-freshman Audrey Gower (19 digs and three assists).
The Raiders were able to continue the success when they faced Waubonsee Community College, dominating in three straight sets to finish the day 2-0 with another win (25-16, 25-18, 25-15).
Holesinger, along with Fugate, led the team in kills with nine each. Nowak also continued her success, leading the team with 20 assists overall.
The Raiders were unable to have the same success on day two of the tournament, dropping both matches to No.2 Parkland College (24-26, 10-25,19-25) and Terra State Community College (16-25, 25-21, 19-25, 22-25).
Fugate and Torres were two stand out players for the Raiders during the invitational. Fugate had a total of 32 kills and Torres had 39 kills,17 in the loss against TSCC.
Coach Will expressed his appreciation for the two freshmen who held their own against nationally ranked teams.
“It’s hard to come in as a freshman, and not only start, but also compete against the nation’s best,” Will said. “Those two have come in and brought an edge to the program, brought a toughness to the program, and have just been competitors… I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how much of an impact an 18-year-old freshman can have against the nation’s best.”
The Raiders are now 3-5 overall this season. They will look to snap their two-game losing streak in the home opener against Glen Oaks Community College on Thursday, Sept. 2 starting at 6:30 p.m at the Ford Fieldhouse. This will be the start of the Raiders’ conference play.