By Amber Dowdy

MUSKEGON – Muskegon Community College volleyball coach Rick Rykse has spent six years developing a winning program, and this year’s Jayhawks LSJ Logo incertsquad is upholding the tradition.

After going 13-2  in conference play, and finishing with a 26-10 overall record against some of the best teams in the nation, the Jayhawks are feeling well prepared to defend last year’s postseason regional championship.

MCC will host an eight-team, double elimination National Junior College Athletic Association regional tournament Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Friday and Saturday’s matches will be at Reeths-Puffer High School while Sunday’s finals and semifinals will be at MCC’s Bartels-Rode Gymnasium.

The winner of the tournament will be crowned champion of the Michigan Community College Athletic Association and will advance to the NJCAA National tournament in Charleston, North Carolina.

The Jayhawks will kick off the tournament with a 4 p.m. game on Friday against St. Clair County Community College.

“We played an extremely tough schedule this year,” Rykse said. “I think this is the most talented team I’ve ever had.  I have very high expectations for them.”

The Jayhawks are led by four sophomores – Lindsay Jacobs, Rachel Brown and Marissa Hassevoort and Ashley Schuitema.

Jacobs, who plays setter and was selected national Player of the Week by the NJCAA in August, has racked up 1,295 assists throughout the season.

Brown has been a force to be reckoned with offensively, leading the team in kills with 408. Hassevoort serves as the team’s defensive stabilizer, logging an incredible 618 digs during MCC’s 36 games.

Schuitema, the third-ranked server in the nation, has been one of the team’s most utilized performers. She’s contributed in multiple ways, with 391 kills and 324 digs while scoring 509 points during regular season matches.

“She’s the only player that never comes off of the floor,” Rykse said. “We set her more than anyone else.”

The Jayhawks will play a challenging field of opponents in the weekend tournament, including Grand Rapids Community College, which edged out MCC for the Western Conference title in the MCCAA this season.

“Our region is very competitive,” Rykse said. “I think that we are as ready as we can possibly be. If we play like we are capable of, then we will be fine. When it comes down to it, though, whoever is playing the best this weekend will win the tournament, and hopefully it’s us.”