Story by Mark DeHaan/Photos by Rob Kurtycz
The Calvin College volleyball team made its third national title game appearance in four years on Saturday evening, facing the number-three ranked California Lutheran University Regals. The number-one Knights were 1-2 in previous title tilts, defeating Emory in 2010 in four sets and then losing five set finals to St. Thomas (2010) and UC-San Diego (1986).
The Knights entered the championship final at 34-1 while their opponent, the Regals, were 35-1.
Calvin was coming off of a three-set victory over Emory University on Friday evening while Cal Lutheran defeated University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in a sweep as well.
Cal Lutheran jumped out to a 2-0 sets lead, and with a 25-12 victory in the second set, the match looked all but over. But, after experiencing a come-from-behind loss last season in the National Championship, the Knights found the resolve to perform one of their own, taking the third set 25-22, the fourth 25-17, and the fifth 20-18.
The Knights scored the first point of the contest as a free ball sent over by junior Elise Biesboer hit the court in front of a diving Regals player.
Cal Lutheran bounced back and took a 7-3 lead before a Calvin timeout from head coach Amber Warners.
The Regals continued to hold the four point advantage, and Warners again called a timeout with the Knights down 19-15.
Calvin would come no closer in the first set however, and the Regals found themselves one-third of the way to a championship with a 25-20 opening set victory.
Cal Lutheran totaled 4.5 blocks in the first set, forcing Calvin into eight attack errors.
In set two, the Knights again found themselves down midway through, trailing 11-7 before another timeout.
Cal Lutheran's lead continued to expand, and Calvin found itself facing an 18-11 deficit. Another timeout could not cure the Knights woes, and the Regals dominated in set two, closing out the set 25-12.
Calvin was held to a .105 hitting percentage in the second set as Cal Lutheran took a 2-0 lead.
After a brief intermission, the Knights came back in the third set and held a brief lead at 6-4. Again, the Regals answered and forced Calvin into a timeout, going up 11-8.
The Knights responded after this timeout, making a 6-1 run to take a 16-14 lead, forcing Cal Lutheran into its first timeout of the night.
Calvin finally began to build some momentum, and with the largely Calvin crowd at its back, took the third set 25-22.
It was the Knights defense showing up in the third set, forcing the Regals into a .154 hitting percentage and tallying three blocks.
With their backs still against the wall, the Knights, and more specifically, Maggie Kamp, continued to play on fire at the beginning of set four. Kamp had three kills and a dig early in the third set as Calvin pulled out to a 7-3 advantage before a Cal Lutheran timeout.
The Knights extended their lead to 17-8, and the Regals responded with three straight to force a Calvin timeout.
Cal Lutheran pulled to within three at 20-17, but four errors for the Regals and a kill from junior Emily Crowe gave the Knights the fourth set victory, 25-17, to send the match into the decisive fifth set.
Cal Lutheran scored the first point of the fifth set, a point that was quickly answered by an emphatic kill from Kamp.
The Regals then took a 7-5 lead before a Calvin timeout.
With the game on the line, Cal Lutheran went to its All American Kylie McLogan. McLogan scored five kills in the first ten points as the Knights took another timeout down 10-6.
After a kill from Rietema, the Regals answered to take an 11-7 lead.
Calvin responded. A 5-1 run, with three kills from Kamp, tied the game at 12-12.
The Knights then scored two straight for a 14-12 lead. A pair of errors for Calvin tied the game at 14-14.
The teams traded points, knotting the set at 15-15.
The set continued into extra points, tied at 16-16, 17-17, and 18-18. A kill by junior Ellie Diepersloot gave Calvin a 19-18 lead, a with a tip-kill from Megan Rietema up the line, the same kill that won Calvin's 2010 volleyball championship, the Knights earned the 10th National Championship in Calvin history 20-25, 12-25, 25-22, 25-17, 20-18.
Maggie Kamp led the Knights with 27 kills while adding 18 kills, earning the Most Valuable Player of the National Tournament. Rietema had 49 assists and 23 digs while Zietse tallied 23 digs. Both Rietema and Zietse were named to the all-tournament team, along with Cal Lutheran's Kylie McLogan, who led all players with 28 kills, and Allie Eason, who had 17 kills and 23 digs for the Regals.
"For a match like that, it is really too bad there has to be a loser. I can't tell you how grateful, humbled, and blessed (I am) to have the privilege to coach these women," said Warners, now a winner of two National Championships. "It is such a great feeling to be able to have so many people be part of (the championship) – that the crowd didn't give up on us – I think that really helped us along the way after we were down 0-2."
Rietema cited the importance of the 10 minute break after the second set that allowed the Knights to regroup.
"During that 10 minute break, we just took a breather, and came out a lot more relaxed," said Rietema. "We played pretty uptight the first two sets. Being able to come out and play relaxed and play our game really helped turn it around."
Kamp, just a freshman in last year's national championship loss, said that experience helped the Knights make an incredible comeback of their own this time around.
"Coming from last year, losing in five after losing the first two sets, I knew we could do it," said Kamp. "I never doubted that our team had it in us. I love those high intensity moments and I love being able to put it away. This is what we play volleyball for, for the big moments, and I love that."
Calvin's ability to draw a large crowd, with the game being in Holland, also aided the Knights.
"It was a really incredible atmosphere to play in. To have so many people behind you, cheering you on and believing in you, that is definitely an advantage," said Zietse. "But, I think coming in and learning from last year helped a lot. We had the exact same situation, so we told our team that we have to do it ourselves, (the crowd) can't make us win. We have to do it for them and we have to do it for us."
Calvin ends the season at 35-1.
Rietema and Zietse bookend their careers as Knights with a pair of national titles. Head coach Amber Warners also becomes one of three coaches to win multiple championships as a coach at Calvin, joining Dr. Nancy Meyer and Brian Diemer, who have both won two in cross country.
Calvin is now one of eight schools to have won multiple national titles in volleyball, joining Washington University, La Verne, Elmhurst, UW-Whitewater, Juniata, Central and UC-San Diego.
Calvin has also now won 10 national (team) titles in the history of its athletics program, joining crowns won by men's basketball (1992, 2000), women's cross country (1998 and 1999), men's cross country (2000, 2003, 2004 and 2006) and volleyball (2010 and 2013).