DII volleyball: Deanne Scanlon becomes winningest coach in GVSU history
On a night where Grand Valley State history was made, the Laker volleyball team extended their season with a strong 3-1 victory over visiting Ashland in the opening round of the GLIAC Tournament. GVSU took a 2-0 lead in the match on Wednesday (Nov. 18) in Allendale and took the fourth set to capture the win, 25-22, 25-17, 15-25, 25-21. The victory was head coach Deanne Scanlon's 546th career win and made her Grand Valley State's all-time winningest coach.
The matchup between GVSU and Ashland was the 4-5 contest, as the Lakers were the #4 seed and earned home court advantage. Both teams entered with identical records; Grand Valley State is now 20-10, while AU dropped to 19-11. Earlier in the day, Ashland was announced as the sixth seed in this week's NCAA Midwest Region rankings, while the Lakers were sitting in the eighth spot in the standings. The top eight teams will advance to the NCAA Tournament in a few weeks.
All that happened on Wednesday was Grand Valley State held serve with the home victory, perhaps improved their regional ranking, exacted revenge over an earlier 3-1 loss at Ashland in early October, and delivered Scanlon the record-breaking win in the friendly confines of GVSU's Fieldhouse Arena.
Scanlon was tied with former Laker legend and 26-year head volleyball coach Joan Boand, who won 545 matches from 1969 to 1994. Boand was in attendance on Wednesday to take part in a postmatch victory celebration with Scanlon, as the duo - the only two head coaches in Laker volleyball history - has combined to win 1,091 career matches. Scanlon, in her 21st year at the helm of the Laker program, has won nine regional championships, advanced to six NCAA Final Fours, and captured the Division II National Championship in 2005.
Furthermore, the Lakers advanced to the GLIAC semifinals and will head to Big Rapids to face top-seeded Ferris State at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 21). All four higher seeds won in Wednesday night's quarterfinals, as #2 Findlay and #3 Hillsdale will square off in the second semifinal at 5:30 p.m.
Ashland actually tallied more kills (47-44) than the Lakers, but it was the GVSU defense that made the difference. Grand Valley State recorded 17.0 total team blocks, which ties its second-highest figure of the season, but also notched a season-best nine solo rejections. The last time GVSU posted nine solo blocks was on Dec. 6, 2013 in a very similar situation. On that night, Grand Valley State defeated Ashland by a 3-1 score - though this match was in the NCAA Midwest Region semifinals - and just like Wednesday, then-sophomore Kaleigh Lound supplied a match-best eight blocks.
Now a senior, Lound posted a team-high 11 kills and hit .333, while two of her eight blocks were of the solo variety. Freshman middle hitter Staci Brower notched five total blocks, three of which were solo rejections. She added five kills.
Senior outside hitter Jessica Majerle provided eight kills (just one error) and three blocks, while classmate Kourtney Wolters totaled eight digs, seven kills, and five blocks.
Controlling the offense was sophomore setter Katie Olson, who recorded 32 assists, 18 digs, three blocks (one solo), three kills in five attempts, and a service ace. The offense was spread around, as six Lakers notched four or more kills.
The first set looked to be headed in Ashland's direction, as the Eagles led 21-16. Grand Valley State, however, had different ideas as the Lakers ran off the next eight points to take a stunning 24-21 lead. The 8-0 run started with consecutive AU errors, followed by a Wolters kill and a Majerle solo block. Olson then served an ace and Lound put down a kill to put GVSU ahead, 22-21. Wolters and Lound then teamed up for a combined block and Lound picked up a solo rejection to cap the eight-point surge. Another Eagle error ended the frame at 25-22.
Set two was tied eight different times and for the final time at 15-15. From there, GVSU went on a set-ending 10-2 run that featured three kills and a block from Lound. Ashland made four errors during the run and the Eagles' only points came on two Laker serving errors. Not only did Grand Valley State hit a match-best .269 in the set, but the Lakers forced AU into a -.029 mark (10 kills, 11 errors).
Ashland took control of set three with an early 10-5 lead, but the Lakers pulled within 11-10 after a combined Olson-Brower block and an Eagle error. But AU responded by scoring 12 of the next 15 points and opening a 22-13 advantage. The Eagles pushed the match to a fourth set with the 25-15 win.
The fourth frame was tied 8-8 when Grand Valley State began to pull away with six consecutive points. Majerle started things off with a kill, Wolters and Lound teamed up again for another block, and the Lakers received three straight kills from freshman Shannon Winicki, Wolters, and Lound to lead 14-8. GVSU appeared to be in good shape with an 18-12 advantage, but Ashland scored four straight points to make the score 18-16. Two Eagle errors and a Majerle kill pushed the lead back to 21-16, while an Olson kill upped it to 22-17. Lound and Olson provided a combined rejection on a very timely point to move the score from 22-20 to 23-20. Moments later, Majerle's eighth kill ended the match and advanced GVSU in the conference tournament.
Senior libero Taylor Shomin picked up 11 of the Lakers' 64 digs, joining Olson (18 digs) in double-digits. Winicki added five kills and a solo block and freshman Brooke Smith notched four kills in eight swings, to go with eight digs.
This is the 20th GLIAC Tournament appearance in school history and the fourth straight year GVSU has advanced to the semifinals. The Lakers have won six GLIAC Tournament titles, the last of which came in 2013 in a 3-2 home victory over Ashland.
Scanlon and Boand are part of an exclusive coaching club. Only two other Division II schools besides Grand Valley State have had two head coaches each win over 500 matches while at that institution - New Haven and Nebraska-Kearney are with GVSU on that very prestigious list.