Sept. 21, 2013
Allendale, Mich.- For the second straight day, #21 Grand Valley State took on one of the top teams in the conference and the Lakers ended up on the winning side of the scoreboard for the second day in a row. GVSU was able to knock off the preseason GLIAC favorite Northwood in a five-set battle on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 21) by a 3-2 score (25-19, 19-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-12).
Last season, Northwood captured the GLIAC regular season title and defeated GVSU in the conference tournament championship match. The Timberwolves return the 2012 GLIAC Player of the Year, but on Saturday, Grand Valley State was the better team in winning the first, third, and fifth sets. GVSU has now won six straight contest and moves to 8-2 on the year, 2-0 in GLIAC play. Northwood drops to 5-5 overall and 0-2 in league action.
By the end of the match, the stats were quite similar between the North Division rivals. GVSU tallied more kills (64-58), assists (61-55), and a higher hitting percentage (.218 to .190). Northwood had slightly more service aces (9-8), digs (84-83), and team blocks (8-6).
While four NU players notched double-digits in kills, the match leader was Laker junior Abby Aiken, as the outside hitter provided 24 kills. Sophomore Betsy Ronda tallied a solid double-double of 18 digs and 14 kills, while senior Megan Schroeder added 11 kills and a .310 hitting percentage.
The Lakers took a 7-6 lead in the first set and never relinquished that advantage. While Northwood pulled to within 18-17, GVSU ran off four straight points, including a combined block from Aiken and sophomore Kaleigh Lound, a kill from junior Kaitlyn Wolters and a Ronda ace. Back-to-back kills from Aiken helped end the frame at 25-19.
Northwood evened the match by racing out to a 13-4 lead in set two. The Timberwolves had a productive set offensively (13 kills, .244 mark) but defensively they held GVSU to a .098 attack percentage. In set three, Grand Valley State got back on track as Aiken notched seven kills in the Lakers' first 11 points. Aiken recorded 10 kills in 18 attempts in the third set, as the team led 17-7 and won 25-20.
A tight fourth set was tied 11 times, including at the 20-20 mark. Northwood scored the next three points before Aiken and Ronda put away consecutive kills to make it 23-22. Two kills from reigning GLIAC Player of the Year Juliia Pakhomenko ended the set (25-23) and forced the decisive fifth set.
Two early Aiken kills and a solo rejection from junior Ally Simmons put GVSU up 4-3 in the fifth set, a lead it would not give back. Three straight kills by Schroeder, Wolters, and Ronda brought the Laker lead to 11-7. Grand Valley State moved up to 14-10 cushion after a Pakhomenko error and Ronda's 14th kill of the match gave GVSU the hard-fought victory.
While Aiken, Ronda, and Schroeder accounted for 49 of the team's 64 kills, the Lakers picked up 83 digs, 19 of which came from junior Christina Canepa. She was one of four GVSU players (Ronda, Wolters, and Aiken) to have two service aces. Freshman Nicayla Joyce scooped 17 digs, while Wolters handed out 51 assists and added 16 digs and six kills.
The Lakers travel to Ohio next weekend for their first road GLIAC matches of the season. GVSU is at Malone on Friday night (Sept. 27, 7:00 p.m.) and at Walsh on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 28, 2:00 p.m.).