By Kaia Zimmerman
The Grand Rapids Community College volleyball team will kick off their season on Aug. 20 when they travel to Rockford, Illinois to play in the McHenry County Invite.
In the recent National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) preseason poll, the Raiders were ranked 11, receiving 67 points in the voting, the highest by any Michigan Community College.
GRCC volleyball went 10-7 overall (8-4 in conference) in the 2020-21 season where they also made a trip to the national tournament, being one of the five teams to make it to the national tournament in 2020 for GRCC. The team is hoping to continue the success into this upcoming season.
“We want to focus on another conference championship and another regional championship,” said Head Coach Chip Will. “We ultimately have goals to win a national title this year. I think we have a squad that if we can stay healthy has definitely as good a chance as any team in the country to fight for it.”
Will is going into his 15th year coaching at GRCC. During his time with GRCC, he has made nine national tournament appearances, and brought home the national championship in 2012. Along with his national tournament appearances, he also has led the Raiders to 10 regional and nine conference titles.
GRCC will have a handful of players returning from the 2020 squad. Some players to keep an eye out for will be third-year players, middle blocker Kylie Oberlin and middle blocker Annie Holesinger.
“Kylie Oberlin and Annie Holesinger were both dominant last year, and are both third-year kids,” Will said. “They will provide some experience. They are kids who can definitely earn points.”
As well as returning players, there are some new faces joining the GRCC squad who will have an impact on the team’s success. Freshman players, Caledonia’s Audrey Torres and Wayland’s Morgan Fugate will be the freshmen to watch according to Will.
Sophomore setter Kailey Carmean recently announced she’s out for the season due to a torn ACL, giving the job to freshman setters, Shannon Russell and Ola Nowak.
With the recent mask update for GRCC, the volleyball team will continue wearing masks when competing.
The Raiders started the 2021 season with a couple of scrimmages against Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, and Aquinas College on Friday, Aug. 13. Although they only had their seven vaccinated players competing, it helped them get ready for the regular season play ahead.
“I think we were able to see some real positive things from a lot of the kids,” said Will. “Obviously we would’ve liked to have the full squad, getting to see what that matchup looks like with those teams, but I was really proud of the seven kids who were able to play and really worked hard and did a nice job against some older kids.”
The Raiders will kick off their regular season in Rockford, Illinois. There they will face Iowa Central Community College and Kirkwood Community College, on Friday, Aug. 20, and continue playing on Saturday, Aug. 21, when they face off against the number one team in the NJCAA preseason polls, Johnson County Community College, as well as Joliet Junior College.