The Grand Rapids Community College women’s volleyball team continued their dominance in the conference by defeating Muskegon Community College in four sets (26-24, 25-23, 25-27, 25-23) to secure their fifth-straight victory. The Raiders are now 8-5 overall and 5-0 in the conference.
The Raiders were defeated four times by the Jayhawks in the 2020-21 season, and coming into this game, the hunger to win this match was evident.
“I think we wanted it more,” said sophomore middle blocker Annie Holesinger. “They had (beaten) us four times last year, and it was time we finally proved who the better team is.”
The energy inside the gymnasium was intense as two of the four sets went into overtime. The Raiders were able to come out on top with great execution of new systems and lineups.
“We have been trying some things in practice with lineups,” said GRCC head coach Chip Will. “… We subbed out our setter late in set one, and put in a bigger block, and Audrey Gower, who started the season as a libero, had her setting. I think being able to have some depth and have some options to be able to put our kids in the best position to be successful was really the difference maker.”
Holesinger had an impressive 19 kills against Kellogg Community College in the previous win for the Raiders, but she was able to top the performance with a career high 24 kills against the Jayhawks.
“I always want to do better than I did before, and my coaches and teammates push me to do that. ” Holesinger said. “It was a game we did not want to lose, and that just fueled my fire to keep going.”
The Jayhawks got off to a quick start in the first set, going up 4-1. MCC was able to keep a solid lead throughout the set on the Raiders until midway through the match. This is when the Raiders were able to take the lead for the first time, going up 16-15 with an ace from freshman Audrey Torres. Shortly after the Raiders took the lead, the Jayhawks came back with consecutive points to go up 22-18. Following a Raiders timeout, Torres was able to get a kill to cut the lead down to three, 23-20, but on the next play, the Jayhawks scored another point. MCC was just one point away from securing the win, but the Raiders didn’t give up. Freshman Karissa Ferry had a kill to cut MCC’s lead 24-21. Following her kill, the Raiders were able to score another two points to make it 24-23. Following three huge kills by Holesinger, the Raiders were able to secure the set, 26-24 and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The momentum shift from the first set carried into the second, as the Raiders jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead with contributions from Ferry and Holesinger. The Raiders were able to keep their distance from the Jayhawks as they obstructed MCC from cutting their five-point lead through the first half of the set. The Jayhawks were able to mount a comeback half way through the set, tying the game at 15 each. The set continued to be a back and forth battle with no clear front runner. With the set tied at 22, freshman Ola Nowak regained the Raiders’ momentum with an ace. Following the ace, Holesinger came up with a block to give them a 24-22 lead. Following a point by the Jayhawks, Torres came up with a huge outside kill to propel the Raiders to a 2-0 lead, winning the set, 25-23.
The third set was a back and forth battle yet again for both teams. Throughout the match, no team was able to pull ahead, but near the end of the set, the Jayhawks went on a run of their own to take a small lead over the Raiders, 24-19. Similar to the first set, the Raiders were able to get back into the set, tying it at 24 a piece to force overtime. Shortly after the impressive run for the Raiders, MCC was able to get two consecutive points to win their first set of the match, 27-25.
It was a constant battle between the two teams in set four. The Raiders were able to take the momentum halfway through the set with a huge rally finished off by Torres’ kill. After the point, the Raiders exploded in cheers, seeming to have the most energy they had all night. Even after the explosive kill from Torres, the Raiders were unable to pull away from the Jayhawks. Near the end of the match, it was a close set with the Raiders leading by one point, 23-22. After a kill from Holesinger and a service error by the Jayhawks, the Raiders were able to take set four and win the match, 3-1.
The win was aided by Ferry (11 kills and two blocks), Torres (nine kills and one block), sophomore Kylie Oberlin (nine kills and three blocks), Nowak who set a career high with 22 digs along with an ace, and freshman Shannon Russell who led the team in assists (51), setting a career high.
The Raiders will return to the Gordon Hunsberger Arena on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. to host Kalamazoo Valley Community College, who are undefeated in the conference.
“It’s always tough anytime an opponent comes into our gym to try and beat us,” Will said. “We just have to make sure that we are constantly protecting our home court advantage.”