By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
The Grand Valley volleyball team has used a blend of seniors and underclassmen to put together a solid season. For the dynamic to work, communication has been important, as it was in the Mustangs’ 25-8, 25-7, 25-18 victory over Badger on Thursday at Grand Valley.
“Without a doubt, communication on the floor has been the key for us this season,” GV coach Kelly Henson said. “When we have communicated on the floor, everything has fallen into place for us all year.”
With a roster with no seniors and just five juniors, the Braves (2-18) have navigated through a tough season.
“We’re a young team with no seniors,” Badger coach Paul Sweeney said. “We’ll get better, but for now this is what we are and we will live with it.”
That lack of experience showed from the very start of the match.
“We spent over four hours this week hitting in practice,” Sweeney said. “You’d never know it watching us tonight. One of the big things anybody can notice is how much extra time GV has put into the sport in the offseason. Our girls haven’t reached that point yet.
“Girls who put in offseason time on club teams are invariably better, and it showed here tonight. Although this is my first year with Badger, I’ve coached club volleyball for a long time, and the time those Grand Valley girls put in shows. They are good.”
Middle hitter Thommie Jackson got things rolling for GV (14-6, 10-4 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) with a slam on the first play of the night.
An emphatic slam from Holly Nye moved GV to a 6-3 lead, and Chelsea Stehlik served up five points in a row to separate the teams, and Stehlik served up 12 points in a row in the second set to open a commanding 21-5 lead, and that appeared to put out the last flames in the Brave’s arrows.
Getting all her seniors out on the floor together in the last set was important to Henson, and it nearly backfired on her.
“I was trying to get all the seniors on the floor together in the last game, and some of them were in positions they weren’t very steady with,” she said. “The girls have just worked so hard over the last four years. I wanted them to share some last times on the floor together. Badger got it going, but our girls stuck together well and got the win.”
Taylor Kramar got things rolling in the third set with a pair of points for the only lead the Braves had up to that point. After 11 ties and six lead changes, a wide serve gave GV a 15-14 lead, and the Mustangs extended the lead to 24-18 before Jess Vormelker set a perfectly placed dink to the middle of the floor for the set and match winner.
Stehlik closed out her varsity career in fine fashion with 18 points.
“I’ve just tried to keep getting better all the time,” Stehlik said. “Everybody on our team has done that, and we’ve grown both as a team and as a family.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.