By Jeff VanderPloeg
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Calvin University hosted Carthage College to culminate this weekend's Midwest Tournament. Facing a challenge in the fourth-ranked team nationally, Calvin claimed the victory in four sets, 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, and 25-18. Calvin moves to 19-1 on the year while Carthage dropped to 22-3.
The first set established just how close and competitive the match would be. Both teams were matching each other step for step, as the first set started out tied 10-10. Kelsey Smith for Calvin and Haley Horner for Carthage paced their teams offensively at this point, as Smith had three kills already and Horner two. Aces from Shannon Kebisek and Ellie LeCount kept Carthage ahead, but Calvin battled back to tie it again at 19-19. Horner led the Lady Reds the rest of the way, recording seven kills in the first set. Carthage pulled away slightly to win set one 25-23.
Carthage rode the momentum and shocked the Knights to start the second set, scoring the first six points and forcing Calvin head coach Amber Warners to take a timeout. Calvin began to claw back behind kills from Sarah Devries and Grace Kellogg. Still down 8-12, Calvin got a spark from Heidi Westra with a powerful kill and two crafty aces. Calvin got the serve to Kellogg and got really hot, winning six straight points to go up 14-12. Kebisek for the Lady Reds and Smith for the Knights dueled the rest of the way and Calvin clung to a 22-21 lead. A nice spike from McKenna Covey got the Knights a little cushion back, and two kills from Sarah DeVries finished off the set. Calvin won it 25-23.
This match would continue to stay close in the third set. Calvin was able to build a 16-12 lead off of a few Carthage mistakes and an onslaught of attacks from Smith. As the incredible volleys continued, Calvin began to pull away, DeVries assisting Smith offensively. Calvin took advantage of Carthage mistakes to lead 23-18, and Calvin finished off the set with a DeVries attack up the middle to win 25-20. Smith had 14 kills already after the third set.
Calvin looked to finish the game before a winner-take-all fifth set, and they did just that behind more offense from Smith. Calvin took an 11-6 lead after a Kellogg ace, and Carthage called timeout. The Lady Reds fought back with a four-point run one point after the timeout to make it only a two-point Calvin lead. Carthage was able to keep the gap there but unable to get it any closer. Smith got a kill to make it 21-16, prompting Carthage head coach Leanne Ulmer to burn her last timeout. Calvin did not slow down, however, as kills from Covey and DeVries led the Knights to the 25-18 set victory and the 3-1 match victory.
Calvin outhit Carthage .262 to .166 in this game even after Carthage led .333 to .290 after the first set. Smith led the Knights in kills with 18. DeVries chipped in 12, Kellogg added 8, and Covey totaled 7 for the game. Aubrey Wrubel and Grace Kellogg had 19 digs each for the Knights as well.
Earlier in the day, the Knights faced off with Elmhurst College to kick off the Saturday action at the Midwest Tournament. The Knights swept the Bluejays 25-11, 25-17, and 25-19. Smith and DeVries tallied 15 and 13 kills respectively. The Knights never trailed by more the two points in any set for the entire game. The win extended Calvin's set winning streak to 27 sets before Carthage broke it in the first set of the next game.
COACHES COMMENT: "Great competition this weekend," coach Warners said. "Carthage is a really good team and I thought our players really bought in and executed our in-game adjustments and strategies. We played fearless, aggressive volleyball."
UP NEXT: The Knights travel to Adrian College next Tuesday, October 22, to play a conference game against the Bulldogs at 6:30pm.