GRCC volleyball team starting the season ranked No. 11 in the nation in NJCAA DII poll

The Grand Rapids Community College volleyball team will start the season ranked No. 11 in the nation in the National Junior Community College Association Division II poll released on Monday.

Last week GRCC was named the preseason favorite to win the newly created Northern Conference in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association, voted on by coaches in the conference.

“I’m very excited to get back in it,” returning player Audrey Gower said. “The returners and I are determined to make it to the national tournament this year since our season was cut short last year. We will all have to work nonstop together as a team to achieve our goals one step at a time.”

GRCC last year posted a 24-7 overall record, and was undefeated in the MCCAA Western Conference. The team finished as the runner-up in regionals after winning its 10th conference championship and eighth MCCAA title. Will reached a milestone 400th victory, and is 410-75 in his 15-year coaching career.

Nine players are returning, including outside hitter Audrey Torres, who earned All-Region, First Team All-Conference honors; setter Shannon Russell, who earned Second Team All-Conference honors; and Kara Hecht, Karissa Ferry and Eliza Thelen who were all named All-Conference Honorable Mention.

Also returning is Alena Visnovsky, recently named to the NJCAA All-Academic team for a perfect 4.0 GPA; Rylee VanPatten, an outside hitter from Charlotte; Charlie Baker, a defensive specialist from Whitehall, and Gower, a defensive specialist/libero from Dimondale.

The team has five incoming freshmen. Outside hitter/defensive specialist Braelyn Berry graduated from Morley Stanwood High School and was named Female Athlete of the Year.

Defensive specialist Lexi Heavner went to Rockford High School, and defensive specialist Vienna Koenigsknecht comes from Portage Central High School.

Also joining the team are setters Autumn Cole and Alyssa Wierenga. Cole is a graduate of Kenowa Hills High School and Wierenga is from Forest Hills Northern High School.

The regular season begins on Aug. 19 as the Raiders travel to Rockford, Ill. for the McHenry County College Invitational. The team will face stiff competition including No. 3 Johnson County Community College and No. 4 Iowa Central Community College, which finished third and fourth in the NJCAA National Tournament last year.

One week later the team travels to Owens Community College and will play No. 6 Terra State and the host team, Owens who comes in at No. 1 in the pre-season Division III poll.

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