Dec. 5, 2008

Courtesy of GVSU Athletics

St. Paul, Minn. - #3 Grand Valley State dropped a four-set decision to #1 Concordia-St. Paul in the NCAA Final Four on Friday evening (Dec. 5), ending its season with a 33-4 overall record. The Golden Bears (36-1) topped GVSU, 3-1 (25-20, 20-25, 25-17, 25-20) and advanced to the national championship on Saturday night. It was the fifth Final Four for the Lakers in program history.

It was just the second loss in the last 31 matches for Grand Valley State, who advanced to the national semifinals for the first time since 2005. The 33 victories ties the third-most wins in a single-season in school history.

The opening set did not start out well for Grand Valley State. The Golden Bears, winners of their previous 35 matches, jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead behind the serving of Maggie McNamara, the Division II National Player of the Year. A kill from junior Whitney Tremain stopped the run and made the score, 8-1. Trailing 11-2, the Lakers ran off five consecutive points, using three kills from sophomore Rebeccah Rapin, to cut the CU lead to 11-7.

With the score at 15-9, GVSU scored three straight points, including a Tremain kill, to make the set 15-12. Concordia-St. Paul answered with three points in a row to up the lead to 18-12. The Lakers answered CU's mini-run with three points of their own to cut the score to 18-15.

Grand Valley State was still in the set at 22-18, but a Laker attack error gave the set to the Golden Bears the win at 25-20. CU hit .310 in the opening set with 13 kills and added 17 digs. The Lakers connected at a .171 pace with 12 kills in the first frame.

GVSU started down 2-0 in the second set, but rebounded quickly and took its first lead of the match at 6-5 off a kill from Rapin. The Lakers pushed their lead out to 11-8 on a kill from Tremain and a combined block from senior Danielle Alexander and junior Katey Crichton. Another kill from Tremain put GVSU ahead, 14-10, before Concordia-St. Paul rallied to make the score, 16-14.

A double block from Tremain and Rapin put the Lakers up, 20-17. Senior Lauren Reber used a powerful kill to put the lead back at three points at 22-19 and GVSU gained a crucial point at 23-20, when Alexander finished the longest point of the set with a kill. The Lakers finished the set with back-to-back kills from Jamie Ashmore to Tremain to win, 25-20.

In the second set, GVSU hit .293 with 16 kills, while holding Concordia-St. Paul to a .200 hitting percentage and five attack errors. The Lakers entered the match with a record of 9-1 after splitting the first two sets.

The third set began with the teams trading the first 10 points with a score of 5-5. CU totaled the next four points to up its advantage to 9-5. The Lakers cut the lead to 13-8 on a Golden Bear attack error, but Concordia-St. Paul kept the lead at 16-11.

CU pushed the advantage to 20-13 but Grand Valley State never gave in to the Golden Bears. A back-and-forth rally gave GVSU a point at 21-15 after several blocks at the net by the Lakers. With the score at 22-16, Concordia-St. Paul notched three of the set's final four points to win, 25-17.

The Lakers struggled offensively in the third set, hitting just .031 with eight kills and seven errors, while the Golden Bears hit a .184 pace, with 13 kills.

Grand Valley State opened the fourth set with a 3-1 lead, including a service ace from Reber. Trailing 5-3, Concordia-St. Paul scored the set's next four points to take a 7-5 advantage. The Lakers cut the CU lead to 10-9 off of a double block from Tremain and Rapin. Moments later, a Rapin kill re-gained the lead for GVSU at 12-11.

The score was 14-12 in GVSU's favor when the Golden Bears knotted the set at 14-14. Neither team was able to pull away as the score was also tied at points 15, 16, 17, and 18. Concordia-St. Paul, however, tallied the next four points to extend its lead to 22-18. Tremain notched another kill to cut the run and make the score 22-19. CU then closed the set by scoring three of the final four points and finishing the match with a 25-20 victory.

Tremain and Rapin played very well, with both players totaling 14 kills. Rapin connected at a .440 hitting percentage and had four block assists, while Tremain hit at a .345 pace and notched a pair of block assists. Reber added nine digs and seven kills, while picking up two of GVSU's three service aces.

Crichton supplied five kills and four of the Lakers' 12 block assists. Ashmore totaled 40 assists, nine digs, and four kills for GVSU.

For the match, the Lakers hit .189 with 47 kills, while Concordia-St. Paul connected at a .235 clip and 56 kills. The blocking was fairly even (CU led, 7-6, in total blocks) and the Golden Bears tallied 69 digs to GVSU's 60 pickups. Grand Valley State doubled Concordia-St. Paul in service aces, four to two.

In an odd twist of fate, GVSU lost all four matches this season on a Friday. Grand Valley State finished the year with a 12-4 record in Friday matches.

The Laker senior class of Alexander, Ashmore, Reber, and Megan Walling finished their storied careers with a record of 125-18 (.875), including three regional championships and three trips to the NCAA Elite Eight, a pair of Final Four appearances, and the school's first-ever National Championship.

Before the match, Grand Valley State and Concordia-St. Paul had only met two other times in program history, with GVSU owning both victories in the series. The last time the two schools played was on Aug. 24, 2001, as the Lakers defeated CU, 3-0 (30-15, 30-26, 30-25).

This is the Lakers' 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, having made the postseason nine straight seasons. Overall, GVSU is 28-9 (.757) in the national playoffs and also advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005.

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