GRAND RAPIDS — It had been quite some time since the Greenway High School volleyball team had defeated Grand Rapids.
The Raiders had come close but were unable to close the door for a victory over the Thunderhawks in recent years. But that all changed on Thursday night in the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium where the Raiders showed their overall team power in defeating Grand Rapids in three straight games, winning 3-0, 25-16, 25-10, 25-21.
Greenway coach Rhaya Tomberlin-Anderson said it was a team effort in the win over Grand Rapids.
“Everybody knew their role and I think everybody played their role to the best of their ability,” said Tomberlin-Anderson. “That’s what we need; we can say we can be strong individually but when we play together and everybody is doing their role, we are unstoppable.
“I feel we have tried to be tight all the way around in every rotation. It feels great to get this win. It is such a great match all the time; every year we battle with Grand Rapids and to take them in three feels really good. Going into tournament time, I feel this win is great.”
Grand Rapids coach Jeff Orhn said his team knew it was going to be a tough match against Greenway, and he added that the Raiders entered the match on a mission.
“You could tell right from the get-go that (Greenway) came in very poised, and we just couldn’t get it together,” Orhn said. “They served and passed well. We knew coming that our mission was to win the serving and passing game, and by the numbers we just did not get that done.
“I told my girls after the game that we are a very young team with very limited experience. A game like that is going to help us; you have to be able to straight-up get beat before you can get better. Hats off to Rhaya and her team for coming in and playing a strong game.
“That rollercoaster of emotions up and down in the game of volleyball, our youth and inexperience showed last night.”
Greenway won the first game 25-16 and then cruised to a 25-10 victory in the second game. The third game was the best of the match with Grand Rapids leading late, but Claire Vekich of the Raiders took over at that point to rally Greenway to a win and the match victory.
In game No. 1, Greenway jumped out to leads of 7-3 and 19-11. The Thunderhawks could not make a run at the Raiders as Greenway took a 25-16 victory.
Grand Rapids would like to forget the second game as Greenway jumped out to leads of 12-3 and 18-7 in cruising to a 25-10 win.
Grand Rapids started to get things rolling in the third game as it led 6-4 and 11-9. Greenway tied the game at 17-17 on a Grand Rapids service error, and then the Raiders took the lead on a kill by Bri Miller. After Claire Walsh put down a kill for the Thunderhawks, the Raiders regained the lead on an ace block from Miller.
Grand Rapids tied the game on a Greenway service error, and the Thunderhawks then took a 20-19 advantage on a Raider hitting error.
But that’s when Vekich took control of the game. The Greenway junior tied the game with a kill and then put the Raiders ahead 21-20 with an ace block. She then recorded two successive kills and Greenway had a 23-20 lead.
Greenway went ahead 24-20 on a Rapids hitting error, but the Thunderhawks stopped the bleeding when a Greenway kill attempt was wide. Leading 24-21, Greenway then clinched the match when Vekich put down a scorcher for the winning point.
“I told the team we had to give Claire the ball and just let her keep swinging,” Tomberlin-Anderson said. “No one could stop her.”
Vekich finished with 19 kills, six blocks and 14 digs in the three games for Greenway. Mikhara Anderson also was tough for the Raiders as she recorded nine kills and 19 digs while Miller had five kills and a block. Kaisa Reed finished with three kills and 12 digs while Emma Sutherland had two blocks. Lexi Hammer recorded 30 set assists, Libby Vekich had 13 digs and Hallie Shevich added eight digs.
Walsh was solid for Grand Rapids as she finished with 12 kills and six digs while Kyra Giffen had six kills. Jenny Bowman recorded five kills and two digs while Anna Geislinger had six digs. Emma Markovich finished with three kills while Emma Johnson had two blocks. Hailee Orhn and Lexi Lindgren each compiled 10 digs while Braya LaPlant had 27 set assists and nine digs.
Grand Rapids defeated Greenway in a five-game match last season and Tomberlin-Anderson said that memory was on her athletes’ minds Thursday night.
“They just came out with so much heart and they said they are playing just one point at a time,” Tomberlin-Anderson explained. “They didn’t want to get too worked up about the fact they have to win. They wanted to play one point at a time and just push every point and not give up a three, four, five-point run.
“We don’t always come out strong in a match but that was the best we have come out. They deserve this win.”
Orhn said it is a match his young squad can learn from. He said he is happy his young girls were able to play in the electric atmosphere that was prevalent on Thursday.
“It shows us what we need to work on every day in practice and why it is important to practice hard,” said Orhn.
With the win, Greenway is now 17-2 for the season. Grand Rapids is now 12-9 with the loss.
Grand Rapids is in the midst of facing a string of good middle hitters which include Lexiss Trygg of Virginia, Vekich of Greenway, and now the Thunderhawks will play Stillwater – who has the No. 1 rated middle hitter in the state of Minnesota and who will be attending the University of Illinois on a scholarship – next Friday.