GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - On Friday night, the Calvin volleyball team claimed the outright MIAA championship in a competitive five-set match against rival Hope College to remain undefeated on the season. The Knights downed the Flying Dutch, 25-14, 19-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-8.
Down two sets to one, the Knights utilized a late fourth-set comeback to boost themselves to victory in the final set.
"I thought it was a typical Hope-Calvin match, lots of back and forth, both teams playing well at times, both teams not playing well at times," said Calvin head volleyball coach Dr. Amber Warners. "I was really happy with how we could've easily given up and we didn't. We didn't let down when it counted. We haven't felt that way for a while and those are experiences that this team needs."
The Knights entered Friday night's contest ranked No. 1 in the nation, holding a perfect 24-0 record with a 14-0 conference mark. This past Tuesday, Calvin clinched a share of the MIAA season crown with a 3-0 home victory over Alma, defeating the Scots 25-14, 25-18, 25-15.
The Flying Dutch came into the match ranked No. 11 in the country with a 22-4 overall record, 12-2 in the MIAA.
In the first meeting of the season, Calvin swept the Flying Dutch 25-20, 25-21, 29-27 at Hope's DeVos Fieldhouse.
The Knights won the first three points of the match, but the Flying Dutch responded with a four-point run to take the lead. A kill by Calvin senior Laura Danhoff (Willard, Ohio/Willard) knotted the score four, fueling another Calvin scoring run that would make it 7-4 in favor of the Knights, forcing a Hope timeout.
The teams would exchange points until the Knights began to pull away behind the serve of junior Jenna Lodewyk (Villa Park, Ill./Timothy Christian), winning three straight points. Calvin held a 13-8 lead when Hope called its second timeout of the set.
Backed by well-balanced offensive attack, Calvin would go on to outscore the Dutch 12-10 in the remainder of the first set to claim a 25-14 victory. Laura Danhoff and junior Tessa Van Laare (Toronto, Ontario/Toronto District Christian) had three kills apiece, while freshman Sarah DeVries (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northpointe Christian), Jenna Lodewyk and sophomore Anna Kamp (Orland Park, Ill./Chicago Christian) contributed two kills each.
Hope came out strong in the second set, taking a 5-2 lead courtesy of a kill by sophomore Vanessa Reynhout and a big solo block and a kill by junior Haley Muller.
Despite a three-point run by the Knights to tie the game at six, the Flying Dutch continued to control early. A four-point scoring streak behind the serve of senior libero Alexis Thomas gave the Dutch a 10-6 lead, forcing timeout by the Knights.
The Knights came out of the break with new energy, outscoring the Dutch 7-2 before Hope halted their momentum with a timeout. Van Laare was a strong offensive force for the Knights, putting away three kills in the play between timeouts. The scoreboard read 13-12 in favor of the Knights.
Unwilling to let Calvin build on its lead, the Flying Dutch won the next six points, three of those points courtesy of service aces by senior Sarah Feldpausch. The Knights answered, scoring three consecutive points to bring the score to 18-16, but the Dutch would use their momentum to roll to a 25-19 victory.
Scoring early in the third set was evenly balanced, the lead changing hands on numerous occasions.
With the score knotted at 15, Hope began to pull away with the lead, scoring three consecutive points before the Knights would call timeout.
However, the break was unable to halt the Flying Dutch's offensive momentum and they would go on to claim the third set by a score of 25-20. 17 of Hope's 25 points came from kills.
The Knights took a 5-2 lead early in the must-win fourth set. The teams exchanged points with Calvin still holding a 12-9 lead midway through the set.
The Flying Dutch began push, stringing together five straight points to go ahead 15-12.
Trailing the Flying Dutch 19-17, the Knights staged an impressive comeback to take the victory, outscoring the visitors 8-0 to close out the set. A kill by Danhoff brought the Knights within one point of Hope and a service ace by junior Kristen Vyletel (Ann Arbor, Mich./Huron) tied the set at 19. Three more kills by Danhoff, another ace by Vyletel and a final kill by Anna Kamp boosted the Knights to victory.
The score was tied at six early in the fifth and final set, but back-to-back kills by Anna Kamp and freshman Sarah DeVries gave the Knights an 8-6 advantage as the teams changed sides at the midpoint mark. A kill by Van Laare would give the Knights a three-point advantage.
After a kill by Hope's Sophia Hackett, the Knights shut down the Flying Dutch, only giving up one point by way of service error.
Back-to-back kills by DeVries and Jenna Lodewyk put the Knights up 12-7 and Hope called its final timeout. A pair of key blocks and a final kill by Danhoff lifted the Knights to a 15-8 victory.
The Knights hit .218 on the evening while the Flying Dutch hit .140.
Laura Danhoff led the Knights with 14 kills, also finishing with two blocks. Anna Kamp, Tessa Van Laare and Sarah DeVries had 13, 11 and 10 kills, respectively; Kamp and Van Laare had two blocks, while DeVries finished with four.
Jenna Lodewyk pumped out 38 assists in the victory, also contributing five kills, nine digs and two service aces. Keilahna Castillo had 17 digs, six assists, two service aces and her first-career kill. Kristen Vyletel recorded three service aces on the evening.
"I saw more energy in my team tonight than I have in the past couple weeks, and I'm really proud of them for making the commitment to play with that kind of energy and drive," said Hope head volleyball coach Becky Schmidt. "We do need to figure out how we're going to manage some of the tough serving that Calvin is able to deliver. I believe in our passers to be able to do that and I believe in our ability to run our out of system and in system offense, as we demonstrated tonight, but it all comes down to the serve and pass."
On Saturday, the Knights will host the Comets on Olivet in their final match of the MIAA regular season. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m. Next weekend the Knights will compete in the MIAA postseason tournament at Van Noord Arena. Joining Calvin will be Hope, Saint Mary's and Adrian. The semifinals will be on Friday, with the finals on Saturday.