Winter 2017

|  by Fritz Reznor

A Class Act

Highly-ranked 2013 volleyball recruiting class lives up to all its hype

When Oakland University Athletics made the move from NCAA II to Division I nearly 20 years ago, its volleyball program struggled to adjust at first. After nine straight years of single-digit wins, it finally hit bottom in 2006 with a 1-26 record.

Current head coach Rob Beam took over the program in 2007, and within a few years had brought the Golden Grizzlies to a respectable level, finishing third three straight times in The Summit League. Then in 2013, Beam brought in a group of freshmen that anointed as one of the top 55 recruiting classes in the country: left side hitter Melissa Deatsch, right side hitter Jessica Dood, middle blocker Sammy Condon, defensive specialist Alli Gutschow, and outside hitters Breann Reveley and Rachel Grier. Together they became the core of what turned out to be the best four-year run in Oakland’s Division I era.

“That group that came in together formed an immediate bond that is above and beyond the level of ‘teammate,’” Beam said. “They’re extremely close, they have great personalities, and they built a chemistry together that helped fuel their success over the last four years.”

During that stretch, which coincided with Oakland’s move to the Horizon League, the Golden Grizzlies posted a 43-17 conference record for a .717 winning percentage, finishing no worse than third place in the league standings. In 2014, Oakland won both the Horizon League regular season title and the conference tournament to advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history.

“They took an already established program to the next level year after year, and they brought a sense of pride to fans and alumni, winning a championship and building a brand that’s energetic and now a tradition,” said Beam about Deatsch, Dood, Condon, Gutschow, Reveley and Grier. “As a group, they were athletic, dynamic and sometimes spectacular.”

Their names are prominent throughout the Oakland record book: Deatsch holds single season and career records for service aces, ranks second in career kills and is the only Golden Grizzly to ever record 1,000 kills, 1,000 digs and 100 aces. Gutschow ranks third in career aces and is seventh in digs. Dood is one of only three Oakland players to ever have 1,000 kills and 300 blocks. Condon, who sat out the 2013 season with an injury and has one year of eligibility left, has been named to the All-Horizon League team each of her three seasons.

Their achievements off the court are just as impressive. All four have been named to the Horizon League Academic Honor Roll multiple times, and Deatsch and Condon have twice been selected to the Fall Academic All-Horizon League teams.

“I think everyone felt when we came in that we had the capability of doing something big,” Deatsch said, “and with that expectation came a lot of responsibility. It took commitment and a lot of hard work. But we had girls who wanted to do that in order to reach their potential, and I think we did that. You can’t help but feel a lot of pride in what we accomplished as a class.”

“It’s easy to point out the milestone numbers and the career records because they’re chartable,” said Beam. “But what this group did — from taking on leadership roles to bringing new, relationship-driven ideas for our community service and just being impactful across a large spectrum of things that we do as an intercollegiate athletic program — significantly raised the bar in terms of what it means to be a player in our program.”