Nov. 15, 2013
Midland, Mich. - Despite a lopsided loss in the first set on Friday night (Nov. 14), #15 Grand Valley State came roaring back to defeat Northwood in four sets (9-25, 25-15, 25-22, 31-29) and clinch the GLIAC regular season championship outright. In winning their 15th straight match, the Lakers owned a 15-7 edge in total blocks and gave Northwood its first home loss since Nov. 5, 2011.
GVSU entered Friday with at least a share of the conference title and needed a win over either Northwood or Hillsdale to clinch the championship. After the Timberwolves came out and dominated the first set (25-9) by hitting .423 and holding Grand Valley State to a -.192 percentage, the Lakers forged quite a comeback. In the final three sets, GVSU totaled 14 blocks and won two tough sets to close out the win. The 15 team blocks are the second-most by the Lakers this season.
Winners of 23 of the last 24 matches, Grand Valley State is 25-3 overall and 16-1 in conference play. The conference title is the first for the Lakers since the 2008 season. NU falls to 20-8, as the Timberwolves are 13-4 in GLIAC action. In this week's regional rankings, GVSU was the top seed, while Northwood was ranked third. The Timberwolves had won 20 straight home matches before tonight's loss.
The Timberwolves looked to set the tone early and certainly did so, scoring the first eight points of the opening set, mostly behind the serving of reigning GLIAC Player of the Year Juliia Pakhomenko. Grand Valley State was never able to get on track, notching three kills, eight errors, and a -.192 mark. On the other side, NU hit .423 with 14 kills and only three errors.
GVSU played match better in set two, racing to a 7-3 lead and turning a 13-9 advantage into a 20-12 score. Sophomores Kaleigh Lound and Betsy Ronda had three kills each in the second set, as the Lakers hit .346 (10 kills, one error). Defense was the key, as six different Grand Valley State players notched a block in the set, including three from sophomore Alyssa Wolfram, and Northwood connected at just a .026 rate. The Lakers knotted the match at 1-1 with the 25-15 victory.
There were 12 tie scores and six lead changes in a tight third stanza. Northwood led 20-17 before junior Abby Aiken put down a kill, followed by consecutive combined blocks from Lound and junior setter Kaitlyn Wolters. GVSU actually took a brief 21-20 lead and led again at 23-22. Pakhomenko, one of the GLIAC leaders in service aces, then committed a service error. On set point, Aiken delivered a service ace to end the set and put Grand Valley State ahead, 2-1.
Northwood appeared to be in control of set four, leading 14-9 before the Lakers began to chip away. Lound and Wolters again teamed up on back-to-back blocks to bring GVSU back to an 18-18 tie. NU went up 22-20 and had set point at 24-22 before a Ronda kill and a block from Wolters and junior Ally Simmons made the score 24-24. The Lakers had match point at 27-26, 28-27, and 29-28 but could not secure the final point. Finally, tied at 29-29, senior Megan Schroeder notched a kill and Aiken followed with her ninth kill of the set, clinching the GVSU victory.
Despite Northwood owning a massive 61-45 lead in kills and a 57-43 edge in assists, the Lakers served better (four aces, four errors) than the Timberwolves (two aces, nine errors). GVSU also committed just 21 hitting errors, while Northwood made 31 attack errors. The Lakers ended up hitting .166 for the match, which is solid considering the negative attack mark in the first frame.
Nine of Aiken's team-high 12 kills came in the fourth set, but she also added nine digs, three blocks, and a pair of aces. Lound had arguably the best match of her career, totaling a career-high nine blocks to go with eight kills (and zero errors) and a .471 hitting percentage. Wolters, the reigning GLIAC North Division Player of the Week, handed out 37 assists, while notching 13 digs and seven block assists, also a career-high.
Two Lakers - Ronda (eight kills, two blocks) and libero Christina Canepa - picked up 15 digs apiece. Schroeder put down seven kills and three blocks.
GVSU's 15-match win streak is tied for the 10th longest in program history. The Lakers finish up the regular season on Saturday night (Nov. 16) at 5:00 p.m. against Hillsdale.