Grace Steenwyk thrives with vision, leads Chix to OK Green title –

Grace Steenwyk’s physical ability has always been ahead on the volleyball court.
She can get to just about any ball that comes her way, set it to a teammate and if her teammate’s spike doesn’t get to the floor, she is ready to use her tall, athletic frame as a blocker.
That all-around physical play earned the Zeeland East setter an all-region selection as a junior, one of the best in West Michigan.
Now a senior, Steenwyk has proved she is just as far ahead mentally, making her and the Chix offense extremely difficult to stop.
“She is continuing to see the court well. She mixes up her placement because she knows her hitters that well,” Zeeland East coach Sara Mulder said. “That is a benefit because she knows where she can put the ball so they can be successful. She is always thinking ahead of who is on fire and where to open things up. She plays the game within the game.”
That game within the game is the next step for Steenwyk and the Chix, who clinched a the regular-season share of the OK Green Conference title on Tuesday with an unbeaten league record.
“Being able to work with all passes and getting my feet to that ball — speeding up the tempo — has been big,” Steenwyk said. “My consistency has gotten a lot better, and that is something I am continuing to improve every day.”
That has build a confidence within herself and her team.
“She has gained a lot of confidence in herself and in our team chemistry had grown a lot,” said senior hitter Elly Hart. “She and I have been on varsity together for three years and we have just grown together.”
Hart, Katie Carlson, Reilly Zegunis and Maddie Schuur are all returning hitters from last year’s team. That familiarity has been a huge factor for the Chix.
“It is huge. We do have some assets on our team, and we do have depth, too,” Mulder said. “They push each other so they are ready for these moments. The other teams can’t camp out on one person. If we can be smart at the net, we can put shots where they aren’t. We are playing the game within the game, and getting the girls to understand that we don’t need them to hammer the ball every time, we need them to put it in a spot.”
Steenwyk said the plethora of options takes the pressure off of her as a setter. She isn’t feeling the pressure of getting it to the same person or in the same place every time.
“It is awesome as a setter to have so many options — behind, in front, to the outside and quick sets. It is nice I can trust all of them with all of that,” Steenwyk said. “When you have a perfect pass, I know they can all put the ball away, so it is a matter of looking where the blockers are and setting them up where there is a single block. Being able to spread things out makes the other team’s blockers think a little bit. That is super helpful.
“It takes the pressure off. We want to instill that confidence in each other. I am tipping less because I know I am getting a good pass and can put up a good set to my hitters — and they are going to put it away. It is really reassuring when I know there is no bad option.”
That means defenses have no idea where the ball is going to go. It is a huge advantage for Steenwyk and the Chix as they look to build off of the regular-season conference title and head into the conference tournament as the favorite.
 — Contact Sports Editor Dan D’Addona at Dan.D’[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.