GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Calvin and Hope met in volleyball for the fourth time this season on Saturday with the stakes at their highest, an NCAA Regional title on the line. Both teams came in ranked in the top ten nationally, with Calvin third and Hope tenth. Calvin overcame the Flying Dutch in four dramatic and closely contested sets, 25-19, 25-20, 21-25, 25-20.
Calvin reached the regional final through wins over DePauw and Ohio Northern. Hope rode a roller coaster on its way to the regional final by coming back from being down 2-1 in matches against both UT-Dallas and Muskingum.
After the slow start on Friday, the Knights looked to blast out of the gates. They did so, amassing a 15-9 lead behind offensive leadership from senior Sarah DeVries (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northpointe Christian HS). Sophomore Ana Grunewald responded with three straight kills for Hope prompting a Calvin timeout.
Calvin regained its poise out of the timeout with a four-point run aided by kills from Heidi Westra (Clarendon Hills, Il./Timothy Christian HS) and Kelsey Smith (Vienna, Va./Madison HS) to take a 22-17 lead. Both teams traded points the rest of the way, resulting in a 25-19 set victory for the Knights.
Between attacks from Grunewald and a consistent block, the Flying Dutch answered to take a 4-7 lead at the beginning of set two. After a Calvin timeout, the Knights were able to crawl back even at nine points apiece. Two consecutive aces from Kelsey Smith established the lead for the Knights. Both defenses came up big in the second set to keep the game closely contested. DeVries then took over the set, totaling ten kills in the set thanks to great sets from Anna Schriemer (Vicksburg, Mich./Vicksburg HS) and a healthy dosage of attacks from the middle. DeVries led the Knights to the set two victory, 25-20.
In the third set, Hope built a 17-12 lead. Calvin errors and Hope blocking, led by Molly Ligon and McKenna Otto, contributed to the Flying Dutch's advantage. Calvin stormed back however, manufacturing a five-point run to tie it. McKenna Covey's blocking and attacking spurred the run. Hope responded with a couple of kills from setter Tracy Westra and held off the Knights to win set three 25-21.
While Hope tried to keep its season alive and Calvin tried to keep the match from going five sets, the Knights and the Flying Dutch traded points to begin the fourth set. DeVries for Calvin and Otto for Hope each contributed several kills leading to a tie set at 16. Calvin then went on a three-point run capped by a Heidi Westra kill, causing Hope to take their final timeout of the set. Down the stretch, Calvin looked to Smith and Westra to finish the game, as they each had three kills after the tie at 16. Calvin went on to win the set 25-20 and the match in four sets for the regional championship.
Calvin's aggressive serving strategy was on full display as several well-placed serves led to Calvin points. However, the Knights did struggle with twelve errors and only four aces. The Knights outhit the Flying Dutch .252 to .101. Calvin also recorded 15 very important blocks.
Individually, the Knights were led by an incredible quadruple double DeVries, the first of her collegiate career. She recorded 20 kills, 16 assists, 12 digs, and 10 blocks while hitting at a .364 clip. Smith added nine kills while Westra and Covey each added seven. Anna Schriemer had a double-double with 21 assists and 10 digs. Aubrey Wrubel led the Knights defensively with 17 digs.
At the conclusion of the tournament, DeVries was named the Most Outstanding Player of the regional and was joined on the all-tournament team from Calvin by Schriemer and Smith.
"We figured out that things were working really well filtering through the middle," DeVries mentioned of her performance. Kelsey Smith mentioned how much this win matters to Calvin's team from a friendship aspect. "One of our main goals is to make our season as long as possible," Smith said. "We get to stay together, practice together, and continue to be a team."
COACHES COMMENT: "We kept our poise when it counted," Calvin head coach Amber Warners said. "We played aggressively. It is really difficult to play a rival for a fourth time, wait all day to play, and still come out and be smooth, resilient, and aggressive. I thought we did that."
UP NEXT: Calvin advances to the NCAA DIII Volleyball National Quarterfinals at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The quarterfinal match will be on November 21.