By Mark DeHaan
The Calvin women's volleyball team returned to NCAA Tournament play on Thursday evening, hosting an NCAA III regional for the third straight year. The Knights came into the tournament as the top ranked team in the country, coming off a five set victory over the previous top-ranked team, the rival Flying Dutch of Hope College.
Calvin's first round opponent was Penn State-Behrend, a team that came in with a 22-8 record and was making its first tournament appearance since 2005. The Lions were winners of the President's Athletic Conference, earning the automatic bid.
In the first set, Calvin jumped out to a 5-0 lead to force the Lions into a timeout. The Knights dominating start continued after the stoppage of play as strong serving from junior Elise Biesboer allowed Calvin to build an 11-0 advantage before another timeout. Biesboer continued her aggressive serving and the Knights held the Lions without a point until an 18-0 advantage. Calvin closed out the first set 25-4.
Sophomore Maggie Kamp had six kills in the first set while senior setter Megan Rietema added four.
Set two was played much more closely, with the Lions trailing just 12-10 midway through. Calvin then built an 18-12 lead before a timeout from the Penn State-Behrend coach. The Knights finished out set two for a 25-15 win.
Freshman Laura Danhoff paced the Knights offense with five kills in the second set.
Calvin closed out the match in strong set three, earning the 25-8 win and a three set sweep.
Kamp led the Knights in kills with 12, while Danhoff, recently named the Great Lakes Region Freshman of the Year, added nine. Rietema had 25 assists and six kills, senior Kristi Zietse led the Knights with nine digs while sophomore Jamie Kooiman and junior Elise Biesboer each had eight digs.
Calvin's defense held the Lions to a hitting percentage of -.101 while tallying four blocks. The Knights offense hit .395 as a team and had 10 service aces.
"Our serving was spot on tonight – I thought we were consistent and we were aggressive," said head coach Amber Warners. "I thought we did a nice job of staying in our tempo, and we did that because we passed well."
"I really try to make sure I get the first few in and as it goes on I keep serving tougher and tougher," said Biesboer. "It just worked out tonight that I was able to serve 18 in a row."
Calvin's win was the finale of four tournament match-ups on the day at Van Noord Arena. Wittenberg University opened up the tournament with a three set sweep of Bluffton University. The University of Chicago then defeated Buffalo State in four sets and the University of Mount Union swept Carnegie Mellon University.
Wittenberg, ranked 10th nationally, and Chicago, ranked 16th, will face off tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. and the Knights will face #9 Mount Union at 7 p.m. Calvin defeated Mount Union earlier this year in three sets at the Midwest Challenge, but the Knights aren't taking the Purple Raiders lightly.
"(Mount Union) is a very good team and they do a lot of things well. They are a team that is taller than we typically see, so we're going to have to take everything we did tonight and do it better and come ready to go," said Warners. "At this stage of the tournament, there are no freebies and you have to bring your A-game, and if you don't, you're going home."
With its victory Thursday, Calvin reached the 30-win plateau for the 13th consecutive year. Calvin is now 34-23 all-time in NCAA III Tournament play.