March 5, 2017
LEXINGTON, KY – Saving their best for last, and in the middle of their Spring Break, the Grand Valley State University men's volleyball team (18-6, 12-2 GMMVC) capped an undefeated weekend with a 2-0 sweep over the University of Dayton (25-20, 25-18) to capture their second-consecutive Greater Midwest Men's Volleyball Conference (GMMVC) title. The 2017 crown is the fifth in program history after also claiming the title in 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2016.
This year's edition of the GMMVC Championships were held on the campus of the University of Kentucky inside the Seaton Center. The Lakers were a perfect 9-0 on the weekend, dropping only three sets total over the two-day event. GVSU made their way through the gold bracket on Sunday to meet up with a familiar rival in Dayton, whom the Lakers have beat to claim three of their five titles, in a rematch of the 2016 championship match.
The Lakers have built a true dynasty in the GMMVC since their inclusion into the conference over a decade ago. The Lakers broke through in 2007 for their first GMMVC title in their first appearance in the title match and haven't looked back. In the last eleven seasons, GVSU has only missed the championship match twice (2008 & 2015). Overall, in the 15-year history of the GMMVC, the Lakers have played for the championship a total of nine times, leading the conference. They are tied with Cincinnati with five titles apiece. Cincinnati has beaten the Lakers for three of their five titles.
"Congrats to Dayton and the rest of the conference on a great season," head coach Jeffrey Pelc said. "We always enjoy our battles against the Flyers. They're a tough match-up for us: good blocking, physical at the net, but mostly in terms of experience with most of their players having played high school and club before college and several of them having had opportunities to play at the NCAA level on scholarships. I'm proud of our group for responding all weekend. This was one of the most competitive years in GMMVC history and we were very fortunate to finish the weekend undefeated. Thanks to the University of Kentucky and the conference for hosting a great event."
"I'm also really proud of our freshman, Connor. He played all weekend with strep throat and the flu, and was excellent. He's our only setter, so he didn't really have a choice other than to step up. As a freshman with very little experience, it's pretty impressive. He's a special competitor," Pelc said.
The Lakers were led by senior outside hitter Marcus Johns with 20 points on 14 kills, three blocks, and three aces. Middle blocker Drew Johnson contributed six points, all on blocks, a career-high for the junior.
"It's a dream come true," said Johns. "I've played in this match four times, coming up short the first two times, so it's really amazing to end my career as a senior with back-to-back titles. It means a lot. I'm so thankful for my teammates who did what they had to do for us to win."
All four Laker seniors were nominated for postseason conference accolades: outside hitters Johns and Jordan Drake, opposite Xavier Remmo, and libero Andre Bonneville. Johns is also a candidate for Player of the Year honors after putting together one of the most dominating performances in his career, averaging over 5 kills per set and 3 digs per set while adding 0.80 blocks per set and 1.00 aces per set on the weekend. The Lakers got great performances from both outside hitters over the weekend, with Drake adding 3.91 kills per set on over .300 hitting with 3.00 digs per set, 0.45 aces per set, and 0.27 blocks per set. The All-GMMVC awards will be announced at the end of the month.
Coach Pelc went with his regular starting lineup for the match: Johns and Drake at outside hitter, Johnson and sophomore Bobby Hopkins at middle blocker, Remmo at opposite, freshman Connor O'Leary at setter, and Bonneville at libero. Junior Nick Weber was a defensive sub for Remmo in each set. Junior Garret Clements was a serving sub in each set.
The Lakers will finish the rest of their spring break recess before getting back to business next week in preparation for the 2017 MIVA Championships (March 31-April 1), the regional postseason event that determines seeding and divisional placements for the NCVF National Championships (April 13-15).