Gutschow digs her way to the top, named defensive player of the week

By Ally Racey

Grand Rapids native Alli Gutschow was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 28-Oct. 4.

Gutschow, a junior at Oakland, averaged 5.3 digs per set over two matches and tallied a career-best 27 digs against Valparaiso on Oct. 2.

She followed with another outstanding performance with a match-high 10 digs against UIC on Oct. 3.

“I was very surprised, humbled, and grateful to be named Defensive Player of the Week. It’s such a team sport and we all help each other succeed. So it was a honor to be singled out like that,” Gutschow said.

Several universities including Central Michigan, Hope College, Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and Ohio State were interested in enlisting Gutschow’s services, but she ultimately fell in love with Oakland.

“Meeting the Oakland volleyball team had a big impact on me. They were very friendly and welcoming. It was also nice because I’m from Grand Rapids so it was far enough away but I could still see my parents,” Gutschow said.

Gutschow started playing volleyball in fourth grade.

“My parents suggested it because I could jump pretty well and, at the time, the doctors expected me to be over six feet,” Gutschow said.

She played on an AAU club team for most of her childhood. During her junior high and high school days, she played on Forest Hills Eastern teams and travel volleyball in the off-season. Gutschow also played for the Michigan Volleyball Association club program.

Gutschow said she knew she wanted to play a sport in college because she is too competitive and too active to not do anything.

“I come from a skiing family so I debated doing that collegiately but fell in love with volleyball,” she said.

Gutschow said volleyball is such a team sport where you can get the camaraderie, support, and friendships.

“I love the challenge of being pushed to always compete at a high level. There’s never a time when you can’t get better in some aspect of the game, no matter what age or level you’re at,” Gutschow said.

She believes each person on the team is a leader and they all give 100 percent every day in practice and on game days.

When the team is down, Gutschow wants to encourage them to push and persevere and never stop striving forward.

“As a team, we all make each other better,” she said.

Against Valparaiso, Gutschow’s former teammate from one of her travel teams played for the Crusaders. It made the match particularly important for both of them.

“Valpo is especially a key rivalry, so that is one key motivator when we play against them, we want to win,” Gutschow said.

She went on to say that UIC has a strong middle player, so she and her teammates were all the more determined to defend against her attacks and shut her down.

There are only four points that separate the team from being undefeated. Gutschow wants to beat Cleveland State because they lost to them by two points.

The Golden Grizzlies want to win the Horizon League again this year and get to the NCAA again.

“My personal goal is to do everything possible to make this happen,” Gutschow said.

The black and gold will play UIC at home Oct. 30.