Raiders capture eighth conference title in 11 years

A feature:

The visiting Raiders swept Lansing Community College to finish the conference season and earn the conference title.

The championship is the Raiders ninth all time and eighth in the past 11 years. GRCC, ranked No. 12, improved to 23-5 and conclude conference play with a 15-1 record. Lansing snapped a 13 match win streak and fall to 25-8 (12-4). Set scores: 25-19, 25-22, 25-22.

Back on Sept. 20, the Stars surprised the Raiders on their home floor ending a 49-match conference win streak, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to win the match in five, 16-14.  The Stars' Maya Ferland had a dominating performance with 21 kills and six blocks.  Dani Johnston of Comstock Park led the Raiders with a .414 hitting percentage with 15 kills to go with her 13 digs.

In Tuesday's match, the Raiders got great starts in each of the three sets mostly through great serving. Three of the Raiders seven total aces came in their first six points of the match, two by Kendra DeJonge, of Rockford, and one by Kelsie Schultz, from Fruitport, that made it 6 to 1. Lansing climbed back from a six-point deficit to make it 17-16 GR, but that's as close as it would get. The Raiders finished out on an 8-3 run to win 25-19.

DeJonge totaled five of her team-high 11 kills in the opening frame with middles Kayla Salyer, from Coopersville, and Ally German, from Fruitport, with three each. None of the three had an error as they combined to hit over .500. The rest of the team hit negative with just two kills against five errors. Schultz had six of the Raiders 17 digs.

The scrappy Stars made things very difficult in the second set as the Raiders hit just .065 with 11 kills and eight errors.  The visitors kept battling, only trailing once -- at 13-14 -- and ended up winning the battle 25-22 after a kill by setter, Autumn Severn, of New Lothrup. Johnston had four kills, German four blocks and Schultz six digs.

The Stars once again fought back from a huge early hole in the third set to tie it up at 21.  After a timeout by the Raiders, the All-American Outside, DeJonge scored her final kill, giving her team the lead for good. After Bre Wickerink's match-ending kill, the game was in the books, 25-22 -- and  conference season done.

Wickerink, of Lake Odessa, was named to the All-Tournament Team in this past weekend's Illinois trip and saved her best performance for the final set. She had six kills, hitting .600 and even added a block. Johnston had five kills, DeJonge and Severn had three kills each, and the Raiders gained some offensive efficiency, hitting .333 with 18 kills and just four errors. Severn led the final frame with six digs.

DeJonge finished the match with 11 kills, three aces, nine digs and a block. Johnston had 10 kills, six digs and two blocks. Wickerink added nine kills and two blocks. German had a match high six blocks. Severn had four kills, including three in the last set, to go with 27 assists, 12 digs and an ace.

Saturday, Oct. 27, the Raiders will participate in the MCCAA Tournament in a chance to defend its crown from a year ago. The four team tournament will feature Mott, Oakland and Muskegon community colleges. In the first match at noon the Raiders will take on Oakland, which finished second in the Eastern Conference. In the 2 p.m. match, Muskegon and Mott will play and 30 minutes after the conclusion of that match the winners will face off. Mott is hosting the Tournament inside the Ballenger Fieldhouse in Flint.

Here's some links for the MCCAA Tournament and Regional Tournament.

Game Notes:

  • The Raiders sophomore players finish their careers with an incredible 31-1 conference record.
  • The Raiders in the 12 seasons under coach Chip Will era, GRCC is 25-2 against Lansing, including 16 in straight sets.
  • The Raiders won their ninth conference championship (third straight) and will be a number one seed in the regional tournament coming up on Nov. 1 in Port Huron. That match will be at 8 p.m.
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